A mess. Ludicrous. Criminal

Covid-19 vaccination first phase priority groups include the elderly and vulnerable - often with travel problems

These are just a few of the comments (above) which I heard on a very cold, very wet morning yesterday, Thursday, January 14, about Covid vaccinations as the death rate soared nationwide to its highest level, though infection levels locally in Rother were now apparently falling.

And the information changes daily, though often little accurate detail seemed to be available on the ground – until late yesterday – and often it did not fit with people’s common sense and limited knowledge. This issue of Rye News therefore contains a number of stories about the pandemic which I will try to piece together into something that hopefully makes sense.

However, having done that, an official statement from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) appeared in the afternoon of Thursday January 14, somewhat late in the day for newspapers published that night, so my comments will be very brief.

As far as getting to Etchingham is concerned the official statement basically says “your problem mate” though they have created the problem by choosing that site. Secondly they give the impression of having consulted locally and carefully considered various sites. Nobody I talked to this week felt that and the phrase I heard most often was “What about the Hub on Rye Hill?”, a large, new building next a local hospital and a GP surgery.

At the start of my week (five days ago) I received  a query from Sandra Crawley in Rye Harbour about her vulnerable mother and later on I received another from her which said that Icklesham neighbourhood’s website had reported that an 84-year-old from Northiam had had his first jab and has a date for his second

However the best I could tell her was that a site was opening in Etchingham, north of Hastings, Rye Community Transport is helping a patient get there who has transport problems (and not charging for this service), some over 80s have been called to Etchingham for the Pfizer jab for next week, and the NHS will contact people by letter – though another correspondent claims it is now going to be by phone.

In the meantime however Anthony Kimber has collected information which is summarised in a separate story.

How to get there

Whether the Etchingham centre knows how many people will actually need transport is not known, but a round trip for Rye Community Transport (RCT) will take at least three hours (allowing for pick-up and drop-off time) and, with social distancing, the mini bus can only take a maximum of six passengers, and perhaps only deliver (at best) 18 patients a day.

However advice has emerged from NHS sources that a patient could be carried in a car driven by someone NOT in their bubble, provided both patient and driver are distanced and masked, and the car is sanitised after each trip, if people are willing to do this.

I do not drive because of dyspraxia, a co-ordination disorder, and therefore do not own a car, but my searches showed me I could get to Eastbourne quicker by train, rather than going to Etchingham, and centres in Bexhill and Hastings would be even more accessible – avoiding very long waits on a freezing Hastings platform, particularly as I have COPD (think “asthma”, but much worse!).

What does not help either is information that is inaccurate, whether unintentionally or deliberately inaccurate, which has resulted in readers contacting Rye News for help

More information sooner stops worries

Our local doctors are doing their best to keep people  informed and, in turn, Rye News is doing what it can to ensure local volunteers are kept up to date.

However, while we desperately need to keep to “the rules” to save lives, when these  change frequently and sometimes seem not to make sense, it is hard to get people to obey them and people will question what appear to be daft proposals.

The Etchingham location might appear to fall into that category, and raises more questions than have so far been answered, so – while next week may prove to be a turning point in dealing with the pandemic locally – it seems that many are still very concerned about their “nearest and dearest”, and do not feel they have enough information – a feeling they have in common with Rye News’ Editor.

Image Credits: Crown copyright 2020 .


  1. Can anyone explain why Rye cannot do vaccines in the brand new Wellbeing Hub right next to Rye Medical Centre? The centre is, its website tells us, closed until the pandemic is over. WHY?

    It’s great to read that staff at the medical centre are Covid free but, call me cynical if you will, is that because patients aren’t actually going there?

    • Chris, you make two very valid points! We are both over 85 and have heard nothing yet. I do wonder when we will…and we are not thrilled at the thought of possibly ‘hanging around’ in Etchingham.

  2. I thought Boris said everyone would be within 10 miles of their local vaccination centre……Etchingham is (according to Google Maps) 17 miles away from Rye and a 30 minute drive. That is almost twice as far as he said. As usual Rye is forgotten about !!

  3. This is very worrying for single pensioners like me who are unable to drive – I am blind in one eye, so have no car. I have read that some branches of Boots are administering the jab, but I have not heard that either of the two chemists in our High Street are offering this service. I am in my seventies, so not a priority, but it would be good to know where (if not when) I shall be able to get my jab.

  4. So many elderly people won’t know how to arrange transport, or be able to afford it. I know there may be Voluntary groups helping but how many can they safely transport? Many people will get missed for sure.

  5. Personally I think there are several possibilities with community halls, the hub, two large car parks (which are used in other areas and Etchingham) and medical centre, so it is perplexing that after all the months they had to come up with something closer than Etchingham, (they (whoever makes the decisions) for rye and outer locality.

    I know for a fact a couple of people who will be unable to make that journey (I would be happy to take the fiends over 90) but health wise it would not be conducive and one friend has already said she will rather not have it than go so far.

    I know that Anthony Kimber and our Mayor Rebbeca Gilbert have been busy trying to persuade responsible people for the vaccine to find something nearer but so far no result.
    I knew from the disaster of test and trace that the roll out of vaccination would be not world beating as promised. And East Sussex, Rye seems to be lagging behind their neighbours who have started. Why I ask. A rumour I hear that Lydd airport is being considered?????

  6. At Rye & District Community Transport we are horrified at the news that Etchingham Village Hall has been designated as the vaccination centre for Rural Rother. From the very start of the vaccination plan RDCT said that it will provide transport, making no charge – it’s just too important to get these jabs done – for people to get to/from vaccination. Like many we had believed that the new Hub on Rye Hill with its excellent and flexible facilities, space to queue, process and monitor people, car parking, and served by 3 bus routes, would be the first choice for a vaccination centre for Eastern Rother. The Hub is a 15 minute (or less) journey from Rye and the villages in RDCT’s catchment area (Rye Harbour, Winchelsea Town and Beach, Icklesham, Udimore, Northiam, Beckley, Peasmarsh, Rye Foreign, Iden, Playden, Camber) apart from Broad Oak (about 20 minutes), meaning that we could transport people singly (or a couple from same household) as we have been doing for medical appointments right the way through since March. I estimate that a round trip and vaccination at Etchingham will take 2 – 2&half hours which means that we would need to have ‘batches’ of people, maximum 5 – 6 to take for each run, so logistically it is more problematic. But RDCT will do it. Furthermore, for what reason was the Hub deemed ‘unsuitable’ when a village hall, albeit a relatively new build was ok’d? I believe those who have cited the necessity for the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to be stored at -70C are being ingenuous: once delivered the vaccine can be stored for up to 5 days in a fridge between 2 and 8C. I understand that people will be phoned to give them an appointment for vaccination and I am trying to set up liaison with those making the appointments so that we are able to take small groups in one go. From the early days in March we instigated protocols and regular cleaning procedures to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers on our buses (those using the 326 service are familiar with them), so those we transport can feel confident that we have their wellbeing as a priority. But there are a number of people who are completely housebound (even before the pandemic), what provisions are being made for their vaccination? And ditto for those in sheltered accommodation, many of whom are frail? Will they be vaccinated on site as happens with flu vaccinations? I would like to ask that if any of you or a family member or friend/neighbour is given an appointment at Etchingham and cannot drive yourself there please contact RDCT on 01797 227722 and leave a message on the answerphone (phone number, name, appointment date and time) and we will arrange transport for you. Our priority is supporting our community in getting through this.

  7. I have isolated and hoped for an end but many selfish people have not helped and it now seems that we are the losers as we have got the dud! PLEASE sort out this mess we do not deserve this Rye always gets the rubbish

  8. I am horrified that we are expected to travel 17 miles to Etchingham for the vaccine. I feel for the older members of our area as lots of them will be expected to travel with people not in their ‘bubble’ and sometimes in a bus with several others on a 3 hour round trip! Although I am 65 and have a car I am on the critically vulnerable list. To make matters worse I understand the vaccine being administered at Etchingham is the Pfizer one. I have allergies so can’t have that one. I can’t imagine I will be the only person who will fall into that category. So, what of us? One wonders why so much of our money seems to have been wasted on The Hub!


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