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Coronavirus / Board hears of some of the logistical challenges of Covid vaccine roll-out

THE REMOTE and rural nature of some parts of the country is “definitely being considered” by the Scottish Government as it organises the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines.

That was the message from the council’s resilience adviser Ingrid Gall, who updated members of the Shetland community safety and resilience board on Thursday.

She said part of the consideration is the low temperature some of the vaccines need to be stored at – with one developed by Pfizer needing a temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius.

Subject to safety approval vaccines are set to be rolled out across Scotland from December in phases, with NHS Shetland leading the implementation locally.

Different vaccines are being developed, and the UK Government has pre-ordered millions of doses.

One developed by Oxford University can be stored at regular fridge temperature.

Gall said Shetland Islands Council is “now looking at how the local authority and other partners can support [the roll-out], and assist them in delivering it”.

“We’ve got a lot of unknowns in the sense that we don’t know what kind of vaccine they’re going to come with,” she said, adding that numbers are also unknown.

Members also heard that the Scottish Ambulance Service is itself looking into logistics surrounding the roll-out.

The service’s Andy Fuller said he felt rural places might be given vaccines that are more amenable to the logistical challenges.

“I don’t think all the eggs will be in one basket,” he said. “I think there will be a supply of different [vaccines]”.

Gall suggested that the council could be able to help when it comes to buildings that have the ability to work with freezers that go to “extremes of temperature” like minus 70.

“We can assist the NHS if that’s the kind of vaccine that we get,” she said.

“The Oxford one is less onerous on that sort of thing. But that’s where the partnership working will come in.”

Councillor Moraig Lyall said she hoped “common sense would prevail” and that vaccines needing to be stored at a low temperature would not be sent to areas like Shetland, where there are longer travel distances.

“It’s certainly being considered,” Gall said.

“The remote and rural element is most definitely being considered at a Scottish Government level where they’re working with this.”

Gall also confirmed that two foreign fishermen who recently tested positive for Covid-19 in Shetland first went to the Gilbert Bain Hospital for other reasons.

She said they then tested positive after that.