VACCINATION of people in Shetland aged between 70 to 79 got underway on Monday morning at the Independent Living Centre (ILC) in Lerwick.
NHS Shetland hopes to eventually be able to vaccinate as many as 600 people per week at the ILC.
Those who were shielding last year are also being called in for their first doses.
People belonging to the priority groups four, five and six (those in the 65 to 69 age bracket, as well as aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers) are expected to receive appointments for vaccination from the middle of the month.
And after receiving special permission from the Scottish Government, NHS Shetland will this week vaccinate everyone over the age of 18 on the smaller ‘non-doctor islands’ of Fair Isle, Foula, Fetlar and Skerries, starting with Fair Isle today (Monday).
However, the speed of the vaccination rollout depends on whether NHS Shetland will receive a steady supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
One of the first to receive his first Pfizer jab on Monday morning was Harold Massie, who urged his fellow islanders to rally behind the NHS and accept the invitation to get vaccinated as soon as it is their turn, adding that it was the only way “to free ourselves from this virus.”
He said: “Accepting the vaccine is absolutely essential; it is really the only way to defeat this virus.
“All these wonderful people here at the NHS have done so much good work, we had the scientists giving us the vaccine, and us, the public, it is now our responsibility get vaccinated to protect everybody else.”
NHS Shetland chief nurse Edna Mary Watson said the uptake of the vaccine among the 80 and above age group has been at around 94 per cent.
She said vaccination was taking place by appointment only. There is no ‘walk-in’ service available, and people will be offered appointments by telephone.
Explaining how the system works she said: “These are mass clinics where there will be patients from all the different practices from mainland Shetland be invited to attend an appointment.
“Your invitation will come from you local practice, they will contact you by phone, probably at quite short notice, and offer you a timed appointment at the Independent Living Centre.
“It is really important that you come here on time because there will be quite a few people at this one venue and we want to make it flow smoothly for everybody and of course maintaining social distancing rules etc.”
She added: “For the patients on the outer isles in terms of Yell, Unst and Whalsay, a lot of the patients there in the older age groups will receive their vaccine at the local practice or somewhere on the island rather than coming to Lerwick.”
Acknowledging the well-publicised supply issues of the various vaccines, the health board’s chief nurse added that people could expect to be invited for their second dose of the vaccine around nine to ten weeks after having received the first jab.
This approach would give NHS Shetland a degree of flexibility in ensuring that everybody will receive the second dose within the 12-week limit, she said.
Two further vaccination centres are due to be opened at the Gilbertson Park games hall and the Scalloway games hall by the 1 March.
At the end of last week Shetland Islands Council announced that a shuttle bus service would running between the Viking bus station and the Independent Living Centre at Gremista to allow people to attend the clinic.
Anyone using public transport to attend a mass vaccination centre will also be able to travel for free.
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