New line of defence for Boro as The Riverside opens up as mass vaccination hub

There's a different goal at the Riverside as the club swaps VAR for vaccines.

As part of the nationwide rollout of the coronavirus vaccination programme, the football club has become the North East's fifth large scale COVID vaccination hub.

Ashley Jones, who cares for her mother, was among the first people to be vaccinated at The Boro's home ground.

The opening of the hub comes after some EU countries suspended the use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine over safety fears.

The World Health Organisation, however, has maintained that the jab is safe, insisting the inoculation rollout should continue as the benefits outweigh the risks. 

Prof Neil Watson, is the leading the vaccine programme. He says despite concerns in Europe about the Astra Zeneca jab, in the North East there continues to be demand for the vaccine.

"There's no doubt we are beginning to see a small number who are not attending for their appointments but they are relatively small. To be honest it's the opposite. We are continuing to see people who are really desperate to have the vaccination and we ask people to continue to be patient with us."

Whilst the number of deaths in Middlesbrough has reduced considerably in recent weeks, new families are still grieving. 

Idrees Rashid is working to encourage take-up of the vaccine among those who may have concerns, in the hope that fewer families lose loved ones to the virus.

Idrees added: "My message to them is, they all have family members who are older, parents, grandparents who are potentially at risk and so it's important that everyone is vaccinated and everyone plays their positive role in terms of bringing an end to this pandemic."

It is a campaign unlike any other Boro has faced.

The club has swapped team tactics, for a different line of defence, protecting people on Teesside from Covid-19.