Pop-up vaccination centres at major sporting events – a valuable addition to the armoury, capturing a difficult demographic

“The Open” Golf – a successful example

In the midst of this pandemic it has long been realised that vaccination was the only viable exit from ‘lockdown’ and/or interminable contact tracing and local shutdown.2 Indeed as well as preventing hospitalisation and death, double vaccination significantly reduces the chance of Long Covid in all age groups.3 The UK, as a world leader in vaccine invention and productionhas mounted a remarkable programme with stepwise capture of tiered risk categories and essential workers.2  By 28th July this had covered 88% (1st dose) and 71% (2 doses) of the adult population and over 99% of the ‘particularly vulnerable’. More recently it has been offered to younger age groups where there remains a significant gender gap with males proving to be more difficult to capture5 (social media pressure, mixed risk messaging). The latter have not altered but it has become increasingly obvious that travel and concerts/ festivals and even “The Open” itself would become dominated by Covid certification6 and tempting relevant vaccinees away from their busy lives might prove productive. This is particularly true of young elite sportsmen whose constant travelling and anxiety concerning vaccine side-effects, have hampered their access to vaccination.

An emergency plan driven by the national situation came to fruition when a local provider (Kent & Medway CCG’s Thanet Primary Care Vaccination Consortium)7 set up a vaccination centre at the entrance to this major sporting event – hosting up to 32,000 spectators a day. Very clear signage, event messaging and an enviable location served to highlight the availability and an innovative recruitment mechanism maximised numbers. Fig1&2  The latter ‘high vis clerks’ offered immediate advice (vaccine availability(Pfizer/AstraZeneca) /second dose timing) and then booked immediate vaccination or a later ‘e’ appointment. Vaccinees were identified via NIMS and entered on the PINNACLE vaccination system and gave oral informed(leaflet) consent with appropriate allergy safeguards. They were finally seated for a full 15mins after vaccination for recovery, next to the Event Medical Centre.

1635 individuals were vaccinated, 84% male and 96% under 40 years of age (Pfizer), 8%  for 1st dose and a huge 92% the final 2nd. Older AstraZeneca’s (4%) were all 2nd dose. There were no observed serious acute allergic reactions but a handful of patients had vasovagal responses and were placed appropriately on ground beds for recovery. 61 caddies and players were also ‘captured’ on 2 of the championship days, making up an important pressure group who added to the positive messaging available across the venue and local press.8

A significant number of younger people were able to be vaccinated, much to their surprise and acclimation. The siting, labelling/messaging and efficiency of capture were clearly major influences on recruitment and hence these numbers. It was clearly an opportunity to access a group that were normally hemmed in by their work and busy lives and continues the vital work of protecting the young even though their true ‘risk of harm’ has been found to be substantially lower than vulnerable older age groups.

The players (our sporting icons) and their caddies made highly visible and valuable PR in subsequent press releases and coverage8 , a potentially positive example and influence against any vaccine negativity.

Anecdotal stories spoke of:

  • ‘really positive to find this here’
  • ‘really efficient – I was in and out in a flash and could go on and watch my sport’
  • ‘brilliant to find this when I have had real difficulty getting away from work’
  • ‘I wish it would be possible to have the final dose at 3 weeks as it was right at the beginning’
  • ‘fantastic to get this done so my safety & golf travel will be facilitated’

Clearly a similar mechanism could be used at any major ‘event’ where target groups are likely to be attending. Success is undoubtedly almost guaranteed when organisers pay attention to siting, messaging and easy ‘capture’.

Acknowledgements

The vaccine centres would not have been possible without the professionalism and expertise of a varying group of 12 NHS team members daily from this Consortium. On the ground, administration for entry and certification was facilitated by Laura Kinloch of The R&A and physical siting and set up was organised by the Senior R&A Site Manager Mr Cammie Scott. We are grateful to Julia Walsh (Kent NHS) and Stuart Moffatt (R&A) for their ‘Comms’ messaging & expertise.

Authors and Affiliations:

Dr CG Nevill1, Dr A Peshen2, Dr A Murray3, Mr H Grau4, Dr D Glover5

1          Chief Medical Officer, “The Open” & Royal & Ancient, Fife, UK.

2          GP Operational Lead for Thanet Primary Care Vaccination Consortium, Kent, UK.

3          Chief Medical Officer for European Tour, Senior Covid MO R&A.

4          Statistician & SAGA Site Operations Manager (CARE, Margate & Mocketts Wood PCN).

5          Chief Medical Officer Ladies European Tour, Covid MO R&A.

Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of Interest with authors Drs Nevill, Murray and Glover. GPs and staff from the Thanet Vaccination Consortium organise and are paid to run such vaccination centres throughout Thanet, Kent, England.

References:

  1. Young people urged to get jabs – The Guardian, p1, 26/7/2021.
  2. Joint Committee Vaccination and Immunisation -https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-30-december-2020/joint-committee-on-vaccination-and-immunisation-advice-on-priority-groups-for-covid-19-vaccination-30-december-2020.
  3. Spector T, Steves C, et al., King’s College, London/Zoe Long Covid Study: The Hidden Pandemic, Long Covid: https://institute.global>policy>hidden-pandemic-long covid.
  4. Folegatti PM Ewer KJ Aley PK et al.,        Safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: a preliminary report of a phase 1/2, single-blind, randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2020; 396: 467-478.
  5. NHS Covid Vaccinations Cumulative figures and breakdown – England.nhs.uk.
  6. DHSC – NHS COVID Pass – How to get the NHS COVID Pass and demonstrate your coronavirus (COVID-19) status when travelling abroad and domestically at events and venues in England: updated 26/7/2021.
  7. Kent & Medway CCG’s Thanet Primary Care Vaccination Consortium – Dr A Peshen, Margate & Mocketts Wood Primary Care Network.
  8. https://www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/news-and-events/news/1635-shots-beat-covid-19-open

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