VACCINATION of care home staff and residents against Covid-19 is imminent, NHS Shetland confirmed on Tuesday, but the inoculation process can’t as yet be rolled out to the care homes on the outer isles.
By the end of this week 74 NHS and care home staff will have been vaccinated locally.
Vaccinators, anaesthetists, Covid assessors, Macmillian nurses as well as those working in A&E, the operating theatre and Ward 3, where Covid cases are being looked after, are at the top of NHS Shetland’s priority list.
Some care home staff working at Edward Thomason and Taing House have already been vaccinated. Next in line are some staff at Fernlee, Northhaven and Wastview.
On Friday, occupational health nurse Sam Wylie became the first person in Shetland to be vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the first to be licensed for use in the UK.
To become immune against the highly infectious disease that has cost more than 1.6 million lives worldwide so far, people will need a second dose 21 to 28 days after receiving the first jab.
NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said once a second tray with a further 975 doses arrives, hopefully before Christmas, the health board will widen the scope of its vaccination programme to include those working in care at home settings as well as people aged 80 and over.
Once vaccines close to approval from Moderna and AstraZeneca become available next year, NHS Shetland will expand the programme further.
“That’s when we will start to deliver the vaccine to large groups of people,” Dickson said, “but it will still be – much like the flu vaccination – that we contact people and invite them in for an appointment.”
Dickson said the health board had hoped to get vaccination in the larger care homes under way today (Tuesday), but for that to happen consent from all those to be vaccinated will have to be in place.
“It is important that we do it right, which means we need to talk to the individuals about them understanding the vaccine and then consenting to it. The consent process is really important,” the chief executive said.
Initially it was not possible to take the vaccine off NHS premises but this has changed over recent days, which has allowed the health board to start expanding the vaccination programme to care homes.
However, at the moment it is not possible to transport the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine on one of the inter-island ferries.
Dickson explained: “We are working through issues as and when they come about. When the vaccine is frozen it travels very well, however, the most recent guidance that we have from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is that we are not able to transport it using a ferry once it is defrosted.
“That means that we will have to go back and look what our plans are for the outer islands.
“As soon we get notification that that has changed we will start with vaccination in Yell, Unst and Whalsay, but at the minute we can’t. It’s not our decision.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart had earlier in the day expressed concern about the lack of clarity on the issue and had written to Dickson as well as health secretary Jeane Freeman.
Wishart said: “This is concerning news and I am seeking urgent clarification about how the issue might affect the vaccine rollout in Shetland.
“Covid-19 vaccination is a national priority and hugely significant to all communities. Government needs to make sure that people are aware of any challenges and how they are being resolved, so they have confidence in the process.”
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