ST HELENS RFC’s stadium will be the site of the mass Covid-19 vaccination centre in Cheshire and Merseyside, it has been announced.

Led by St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the centre will open at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Monday, January 18, using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

The venue is an additional option for people to choose when they are contacted to have their vaccine, alongside primary care and local pharmacy venues.

Vaccination will be by appointment only and members of the public are asked not to attend the stadium unless they have been contacted by the NHS.

Those in the Government’s priority groups will be contacted first and given the option of the St Helens venue.

Professor Kevin Hardy, vaccination centre medical director, said: “This is an exciting step in the national Covid-19 vaccination programme and great news for the people of Cheshire and Merseyside that the first large-scale vaccination centre is opening in the area.

“When the St Helens centre is fully operational, we will be vaccinating thousands of people each week and it means that we can move through those priority groups at a greater pace and ensure that we can protect many more people as soon possible.”

Saints’ ground has long been eyed as a venue for a regional mass vaccination centre, with local GPs using the stadium to carry out mass vaccinations.

Over the weekend, the Mail on Sunday reported it was one of seven major hubs being launched as part of Boris Johnson’s drive to offer jabs to the 15 million most vulnerable people in the country by February 15.

Local Labour politicians have welcomed the plans

Conor McGinn, Labour MP for St Helens North, Marie Rimmer, MP for St Helens South and Whiston and Cllr David Baines, leader, St Helens Borough Council, have released a joint statement.

They said: “Since Saints’ stadium was identified in late December as a potential site to provide mass vaccination capacity for Cheshire and Merseyside, our NHS and CCG staff have worked tirelessly alongside St Helens Borough Council and St Helens RFC in a national, regional and local effort to get this up and running swiftly and safely.

"We are proud of all their efforts and grateful to them for everything they continue to do.

"As our hospitals continue to be under severe pressure, and we see record numbers of deaths from Covid-19, we urge people to continue to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

"We know that this has been a difficult time for everyone in our community. We hope that the continuing roll-out of the vaccine nationally, and the part being played in it by local people at this iconic site in our town, will bring optimism and a sense of pride to everyone across our borough.”

Some Cheshire residents, who live up to a 45-minute drive away from the Etihad Campus in Manchester, are also being offered the chance to take up the jab at that site.

GP-led centres at Kingsmead Medical Centre, the Dene Drive clinic in Winsford, Victoria Hall in Middlewich, Knutsford Community Hospital and Wilmslow Health Centre are the main local centres for immunisation.

There are also vaccines available from NHS hospitals, while Morrisons in Wharton is also becoming a vaccination centre next Monday.