Covid-19 vaccination programme begins in Scotland with vaccinators followed by care home residents

The first vaccinations against Covid-19 will begin at 23 centres across Scotland today, as those who are lined up to give the injection to others receive it themselves first.

Between 160 and 165 healthcare workers have been trained to administer the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine this week to colleagues in the health sector who will then in turn begin delivering the jab, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said.

Scotland has received an initial delivery of 65,500 doses of the vaccine, enough for 32,750 people, with more to follow.

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Ms Freeman initially announced in November the first delivery to Scotland would be 320,000 doses, but supply had been limited by the manufacturers.

A nurse prepares a syringe to administer a Covid vaccine. Picture: AP Photo/Hans Pennink
A nurse prepares a syringe to administer a Covid vaccine. Picture: AP Photo/Hans Pennink

The timescale announced by Ms Freeman has also been altered, with her initial projection in November of all Scots over the age of 18 being offered a vaccine by the end of Spring 2021 being altered last week to comments the first wave of vaccinations could be completed by Spring.

Opposition parties have called for greater clarity on the timescale of the vaccine rollout.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said on Monday that it was “vital” for the Scottish Government to release information on how many people will be vaccinated this week.

The Scottish Government was unable to confirm how many people will receive the Covid-19 vaccine this week.

Doses have been transported to 23 locations around Scotland, kept in strictly controlled environments at a temperature below -70C.

Hundreds of vaccinators are set to receive their first dose this week and will begin administering the vaccine to care homes from Monday, December 14.

There was speculation as to which group would receive the vaccine first, as the product developed by Pfizer and BioNTech arrives in batches of 997 doses, which are challenging to transport around the country at -70C.

But last week Ms Freeman confirmed the batches could be stored without freezing for 12 hours, and can be split up and stored undiluted for up to five days.

Because of this, vaccination will begin in care homes at the beginning of the process as advised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), and will begin in Scotland from December 14.

Those in the top JCVI priority after the vaccinators are older adults in care homes and their carers, followed by those over 80, and frontline health and social care staff.

Nobody will enjoy the full protective effect of the vaccine before the end of this year, as it requires two doses between 21 and 28 days apart, and is only fully effective seven days after the second dose.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that while it was a “sensible precaution” to vaccinate the vaccinators early in the programme, it was not imperative they be fully immunised before delivering the jab to others as it is one of many precautions taken to safeguard against the spread of Covid-19, including suitable PPE.

Ms Sturgeon visited one of the vaccination centres at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh yesterday, where 60 people are booked in to receive a vaccine on Tuesday.

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“I’m grateful to everyone involved in giving this vaccine to those who need it most,” she said.

“By vaccinating the priority groups they will be covering those associated with 99 per cent of preventable Covid-19 deaths. That is a very compelling reason to put these groups first in the queue for this vaccine.

“Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel. But I ask everyone to be patient as we work our way through this vaccination programme and continue to follow FACTS to keep us all safe.”

Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Lothian, also thanked staff who had helped to organise the vaccine rollout.

“As we prepare to launch our staff vaccination clinics, we reach a crucial milestone in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.

“Across NHS Lothian, a huge amount of planning has and will continue to take place to ensure that we can deliver the vaccine quickly, efficiently and effectively.”

Other health boards have also been preparing for the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Dr Mark Russell, associate medical director of health and social care for North Lanarkshire, said: “NHS Lanarkshire has set up a tactical group to lead the local delivery of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

"This week our focus will be on vaccinating care home staff and residents and frontline staff with direct patient contact. This will include our vaccinators and staff working in red Covid areas.

"Managers are being asked to identify staff to be vaccinated and our online booking system will then open to the wider organisation.

“I am delighted that the first Covid vaccinations in NHS Lothian will be given tomorrow and would like to thank all our staff for their dedication in making this happen.”

Sarah Horan, deputy director of nursing midwifery and AHPs at NHS Borders, said: “Seeing the first delivery of Covid-19 vaccines in our area is a very welcome sight. While it will be a huge logistical challenge in rolling out vaccination, this is a real stepping stone in bringing an end to the pandemic.

“I’d urge those eligible in this first wave to take-up the Covid-19 vaccine and for others to please be patient as we work through priority groups in line with the vaccine that we have available to us and the settings in which the vaccine needs to be delivered.

“I would also ask people to keep following the FACTS around coronavirus. There is still a long winter ahead of us so protect yourself, your loved ones and the NHS.”

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