THE county’s largest Covid vaccination centre will stop administering coronavirus jabs for a month – to allow a cheerleading event to take place.

Concerns have been raised following the move, which will see the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) – which has capacity to vaccinate 9,000 people a week – temporarily pause its vaccination programme to allow the Future Cheer International Cheerleading Competition to take place at the beginning of July.

Dorset Healthcare, which runs the vaccination service, insists people will be able to receive their vaccinations at other sites while the clinic at the BIC pauses.

However, one source close to the BIC vaccination programme told the Echo they had concerns Covid jab progress could be set back by the month-long hiatus.

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“Many, many people will be affected by this,” they said. “Many thousands of people could be vaccinated at the BIC during this time.

“It really doesn’t seem to many of us to make a lot of sense.”

For others – including Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood – the decision is not so clear cut.

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Mr Ellwood, who volunteers weekly to administer vaccinations at the BIC, told the Daily Echo: “I must say I am of two minds.

“We need to get the vaccinations done, that is our way out of this pandemic.

“The sooner we can vaccinate all adult age groups the better.

“But at the same time there is a wider mental heath issue to deal with, with children being able to get back to some form of normality.

“This is a major event involving hundreds of children and families.

“Children have been training for this.

“I have been given assurances it will not impact on the wider vaccine rollout across Dorset.”

Mr Ellwood also said that Dorset has been “ahead of the game” in terms of efficiency in getting vaccines into arms.

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“I have mixed feelings about this,” he said. “I want to see our vaccinations continue but, likewise, I am very conscious that we are all very fatigued by the impact of Covid, unable to do the things we love and enjoy.

“This is an experience children have been training for and looking forward to for some time.

“I think we have to be tolerate and pragmatic to allow this event to take place.”

The cheerleading competition, an annual occurrence in Bournemouth, is the biggest event of its kind to take place at the BIC and one of the biggest cheerleading competitions in Europe.

It brings tens of thousands of pounds into Bournemouth and will be welcomed by many in the town’s hospitality sector.

Ian Crow, of Future Cheer – the organisation behind the contest – said: “We are so pleased to be returning to the BIC and Bournemouth and the highlight of the year for so many people.”

The competition, if the road map out of lockdown remains the same, is scheduled for July 2-4.

Dorset Healthcare University NHS Trust says the month-long pause is the minimum time needed for both the event organisers and the NHS to set up and and pack down at either end.

Bournemouth Echo: The cheerleading event is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe

European teams entering this year are eligible for the cheerleading world chamionships held in Florida, USA.

Steve Turner, divisional general manager of bhlive, which runs the BIC, said: “In part, thanks to the success of the vaccination rollout, along with the gradual easing of restrictions, we are now able to start welcoming people back to events which will provide a welcome boost to the town.

“In preparation for a phased return of events, we have, and continue to, work very closely with the NHS.

“This is an encouraging step forward and we are assured that robust alternative arrangements are in place to alleviate any impact on the vaccination rollout.”

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Meanwhile, a Dorset HealthCare spokesperson said: “As national Covid-19 restrictions ease, venues like the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) will be able to run more of their usual events again.

“The Covid-19 vaccination service currently hosted in the venue’s Purbeck Hall and adjoining areas will temporarily pause to allow a major event to take place.

“The vaccination centre will not be operating between 21 June and 18 July.

“During this time Dorset HealthCare, which runs the service, will work with partners to continue offering the vaccine in other ways.

“People will continue to be able choose from a range of options when they are invited to have their vaccine.”