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Coronavirus / Health board preparing for Covid vaccine roll-out

Scottish Government has confirmed that priority groups could receive vaccinations as early as December

PREPARATIONS for the roll-out of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme are underway in Shetland, the isles’ health board says.

It comes after an announcement from the Scottish Government on Thursday that the first vaccines could be given out in Scotland from as early as next month, subject to regulatory approval.

Vaccinations could initially be given to health and social care staff, older care home residents and those over 80 years old who live in the community.

Once these initial priority groups have been vaccinated, those over 65 will be offered the vaccination along with those under 65 who are at additional clinical risk, before moving on to the wider population over the age of 18.

NHS Shetland consultant in public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said preparations were already underway in the isles.

“At this stage these are mostly logistical related to vaccine supply and workforce,” she said.

“NHS Shetland will follow Scottish guidance on priority groups for vaccination, similar to the annual flu vaccination programme.

“Our team has vast experience in public vaccination programmes and the roll-out of the Covid vaccination programme will follow protocols we are all familiar with.”

Health secretary Jeane Freeman MSP. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland NewsHealth secretary Jeane Freeman MSP. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said on Thursday that “safety is paramount” in the Scottish Government’s approach to vaccination.

“Any Covid-19 vaccines deployed in Scotland will be used on the basis of compelling public health grounds, and only when the regulatory bodies and those charged with providing independent clinical advice are satisfied in terms of vaccine safety and effectiveness,” she said.

Freeman said more than 2,000 vaccinators and support staff will be needed across Scotland by the end of January.

Labour Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant, meanwhile, sought assurances in parliament that people in the region will have equal access to the vaccine when it becomes available.

Freeman replied: “It is entirely for GPs to volunteer to do the vaccine, so the GPs and the practice nurse and other clinical teams are very welcome to be involved in this programme, we have reached an agreement with the British Medical Association on financial reimbursement for them to do that.

“The assurance I give is that we will do everything that we can to ensure that every citizen in Scotland who is eligible for this vaccine, so that’s all adults over the age of 18, is able to be vaccinated whether that be we take it to their own home or via a mobile unit.”

Fellow Highlands and Islands list MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, who represents the Conservatives, said: “The UK Government has secured millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses, but we know delivering an effective vaccination programme across the Highlands and Islands will be a challenging logistical exercise. 

“It’s absolutely vital that ministers ensure that the local health boards and other agencies which cover some of our most remote and rural communities – particularly in the islands – have the resources and support necessary.”