The first lucky ones

An elderly couple from Rye receiving Covid-19 vaccinations on the first day at Etchingham Covid-19 vaccination centre

On Wednesday, January 20, the Covid-19 vaccination centre for Rye and district residents opened its doors in Etchingham and my elderly parents were among the first lucky ones to receive the new Pfizer vaccine.

An initial 1,000 doses of this vaccine have reportedly been delivered to the centre and a staff member said these doses had to be administered in three days. The vaccine is stored at a very low temperature and requires special handling.

Driving the 18 miles to Etchingham from Rye, via the B2089, A21 and A265 was not an easy task in the midst of a storm. If travelling by private car, I’d strongly recommend that Rye residents allow at least an hour for the journey in case of unforeseen delays — especially if elderly people with poor mobility are being transported.

The Covid-19 vaccination centre — located in Etchingham village hall on the west side of the village — can easily be seen on the right-hand side of the main road. On the first day, at least in mid-afternoon, the main problem was that the car park was so full, cars were also nose-to-tail along the side road in front of the centre.

“Slightly haphazard process”

People attending the facility first enter a large reception room where there is scattered seating, and where staff members help them to fill in an information and consent form. My impression was that this process was slightly haphazard, and I felt the “flow” of visitors could probably have been better managed.

Everyone was wearing masks and social distancing was maintained whenever possible, although this was sometimes a challenge. I was surprised at the relatively high number of staff and volunteers assisting at the centre, including a small team of army medics. Staff may be working as part of two or three shifts during the day, but I was unable to confirm this.

The two buildings used for the vaccinations at Etchingham

After the form-filling, one moves into a much larger high-ceilinged room, which appears to be a gymnasium or perhaps the assembly hall of the adjacent Etchingham primary school. Inside are two or three screened-off injection areas, where staff members or army medics administer the inoculations.

After receiving their jabs, people are instructed to sit for 15 minutes in a separate area at one end of the room in case any side-effects occur. Vaccinees finally escape through a door into the welcoming fresh air. Overall time spent in the vaccination centre was about 35 minutes.

Parking could present problems

In my view it’s not easy for frail and elderly people to reach Etchingham from Rye — whatever route or means of transport they take. The centre’s signing-in and vaccination process itself could possibly be streamlined, but I am sure this will happen as the centre irons out any teething problems in days to come. Parking at the site does seem to present a problem at certain times, however.

There is discussion about siting a Covid-19 vaccination centre closer to, or perhaps in, Rye at some stage in the future, with Rye Medical Centre’s website declaring: “This is a fast-moving programme and over the coming weeks there may be an option to provide the vaccine from more sites across our communities”.

It seems that one of the main reasons the Etchingham site was chosen was the large size of the two rooms involved.

As other Rye News correspondents have pointed out, the new Hub on Rye Hill would appear at first glance the most logical site for a Rye vaccination centre, so long as there is sufficient space and ventilation to handle the expected number of people.

Have it when you can 

Meanwhile, weighing up the advantages of the vaccine against any inconveniences incurred in travelling to Etchingham, I’d certainly recommend that people choose to accept the vaccination when it’s offered to them. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the individuals — be they from the NHS, the army or volunteers — devoting their skills and time to this enormous public health project.

The journey to Etchingham may be a bit longer than many Ryers wish, but surely it’s a road worth travelling to achieve such an important outcome.

Image Credits: David Worwood .


  1. Thanks for this David. I took my husband for his jab on Saturday. His appointment was at 4pm and as we drove up to the car park it was pretty much empty. I noticed the Rye and District Community Transport bus behind us as I parked. I would agree with you to allow an hour for the journey, but arriving early probably contributes to the congestion around the entrance and the crowded car park. We had no problems on Saturday and things seemed to flow through smoothly although it does take more time than expected.

  2. Have had my first Covid vaccination today. Unfortunately, having arrived “bang on the dot” for my appointment (on the Community bus) there was a queue of people waiting to go in. One driver said “they” shouldn’t be here (indicating a minibus) and requested that ‘my bus colleagues’ be kept on board for the queue to dissipate. Everything in the centre was spot on and I think that the holdup was the fact that there were several couples – some arriving by car, and virtually unable to walk, which held up the process. A wait in the corridor (again because people were unable to stand, whilst more vaccine was brought out and then syringes, ensued) On returning to the bus our driver commented that a lady in charge had more or less accused her of partly causing the logjam by letting everyone out at the same time – which she definitely hadn’t. May I PLEASE request that more people take advantage of the free shuttle service to and from Etchingham because, believe it or not, it will ease the general situation that is causing problems in the car park – which isn’t that big and will make a much smoother experience over all. After all, for each trip organized y the Community Bus Service, they are saving several cars turning up at the site and – in my opinion – should be congratulated on what they are trying to do to help – not criticized.


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