Coronavirus in Scotland: Who will get the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine first?

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, making it the first western country to license a Covid-19 vaccine.

The UK has ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine before Christmas, with Scotland set to receive an initial order of 320,000.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said Scotland is ready to begin vaccinations as soon as supplies are in place, and it is understood these could begin as early as Monday December 7.

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As the vaccine requires two doses, three weeks apart, those vaccinated will not receive protection from the virus until the new year.

Pfizer and BioNTech have won permission for emergency use of their Covid-19 vaccine in the UK. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
Pfizer and BioNTech have won permission for emergency use of their Covid-19 vaccine in the UK. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

It has been shown in trials to be 95 per cent effective and to work in all age groups.

The Scottish Government is due to give an update on Wednesday outlining plans for who will receive the vaccine first.

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While it was initially thought that this would be older care home residents and all those over 80, the order may change to give NHS workers in hospitals first priority.

The Pfizer vaccine presents a greater logistical challenge than some of the other candidates in production, as it must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celcius and can be moved only four times before it risks becoming unstable.

By the time it reaches a hospital it will have been moved twice, from the production plant in Belgium to storage hubs in the UK, and then on to hospitals.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, Linda Bauld, Chair of Public Health at Edinburgh University, said the order “may change slightly”.

“They said first older adult residents in care homes and care home workers, then all of those over the age of 80 and health and social care workers, and then it goes down in terms of ages,” she said.

“Health and social care workers were just below care home residents and care home workers in the original list, but if the Pfizer vaccine is the one first out, which it is in terms of the approval, given the storage requirements for that vaccine – remember it needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius – it’s going to be very difficult to get that to care homes.

"So I think that you may see healthcare workers being vaccinated in hospital first.”

Jeane Freeman set out plans in November to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine to one million Scots by the end of January.

Delivery will be led by NHS health boards, who will identify suitable locations – both for mass vaccination and local clinics – recruit staff, and manage clinics.

Registered clinicians will carry out the vaccinations, and Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government has reached an agreement with the British Medical Association for GPs to be involved as well, as well as pharmacists, dentists and optometrists.

The military will also aid with vaccine delivery.

Some 2,000 support and delivery staff will be needed by the end of January, Ms Freeman said.

Everyone set to receive a vaccine will be given information in letters to be sent out in the coming weeks and months.

Confirmation of which groups will be first to receive the vaccine is expected on Wednesday from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

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