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Coronavirus / Health board says new vaccine is ‘the one we have been waiting for’

It was announced this morning that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has become the second to be approved for use in the UK

NHS Shetland’s public health principal says she is “delighted” that a second coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the UK.

Elizabeth Robinson said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is the “one we have been waiting for” as it will be easier to transport than the current Pfizer jab.

She told Shetland News that the health board expects a “small delivery in the second week of January, and this will be targeted at over 80s in primary care”.

The current vaccine, which began being rolled out locally earlier this month, needs to be stored at -70C but the new one can be kept at normal fridge temperatures.

“We are delighted by the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved,” Robinson said.

“This is the one we have been waiting for as it will be easier to transport and is more suitable for a mass rollout in our communities.”

Robinson also confirmed that the current vaccine programme has continued as normal during the recent outbreak of coronavirus cases in Shetland.

A total of 36 cases have now been linked to the current cluster.

In response to questions from Shetland News, Robinson said on Wednesday morning that there are no Covid cases in the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick at the moment.

She said the majority of positive cases in the cluster were symptomatic.

“But it’s a bit difficult to answer as some have been very mildly symptomatic or been asymptomatic and then developed symptoms,” Robinson said.

The public health principal said tests have been carried out in Brae, Lerwick and at people’s homes.

She reiterated that testing equipment used by the local laboratory is “highly accurate, and tests are run twice to ensure that no mistakes are made”.

“Where there is an unclear result, we have re-swabbed, and re-tested,” Robinson said.

“We also look at context; so, if we get a positive result for someone where there is absolutely no record of contact with another positive case, no travel, no socialising, then we will be even more cautious in terms of announcing it as a positive case and will check and double check.”

Published figures show the test positivity rate for Shetland was 4.2 per cent between 20-26 December.

With regards to what numbers need to be reached before Shetland changes level in the national coronavirus restrictions, Robinson said that “if the rate of infection doesn’t slow down or if the community ignores guidance, then the Scottish Government will impose level four restrictions”.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to update parliament this afternoon on the rise in cases in Scotland.