WITH the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme further accelerating NHS Shetland is hoping to have a vaccination centre at Gilbertson Park up and running by the start of next week, a fortnight ahead of schedule.
Public health consultant Dr Susan Laidlaw said all health boards in the country have been asked by government to vaccinate more people more quickly.
But the health board in Shetland has little control over whether it will have enough vaccines available to meet those new government targets.
Dr Laidlaw said: “We have been asked to do the vaccination programme quicker, but we need the vaccine to do that.
“We knew what we were getting for our original plans, but now that we have to vaccinate quicker we obviously need to have more vaccine and have it more quickly, but that we have no control over.”
During the last seven days 290,000 people in Scotland received their first jab. NHS Shetland did not release any up-to-date figures today (Monday), but judging by the capacity of the vaccination centre at the Independent Living Centre at least 3,500 islanders should by now have received their first dose.
Depending on vaccine availability, heath and care staff should be starting to get their second dose later this month.
Dr Laidlaw said sufficient vaccine was available in Scotland, but the challenge was to get it to the right place at the right time.
“We think the vaccine is actually there, it is just the logistics of getting it to the right places across all the boards; and with the Pfizer vaccine there are the issues of how it is stored and transported.
“The Pfizer vaccine also comes in doses of 1,000 – you can’t make it any smaller, so it means we are either getting 1,000 or none.
“But the national people are working round the clock to get this sorted out. We are getting vaccine allocated and then we have to order, and the it takes a couple of days before it gets here.”
Speaking to Shetland News on Monday afternoon, Dr Laidlaw added: “The clinics are going really well, we are on target and we will have done more this week than we have done last week.
“Gilbertson Park we are hoping will be starting up next week, that’s 15 February, and Scalloway [games hall) is more likely to be the beginning of March.”
She added that due to the scale of the rollout vaccinations were being administered centrally in Lerwick, unlike other vaccination programmes which are routinely delivered in health centres.
“There are some significant differences between the Covid programme and other programmes. Both vaccines are more complex to prepare, especially to avoid any wastage, and the Pfizer vaccine is very difficult to store and transport.
“With the very rapid rollout of the programme just now, the tight timescales we have to meet, and continuing uncertainty about vaccine supply, it is not feasible to routinely deliver vaccinations in every practice as we do for other programmes.
“The exceptions to this are people who are housebound, who normally would have their vaccinations at home. We have also been able to ensure, so far, that most people on the islands have not had to travel to Lerwick and have been able to receive their vaccination at their health centre.”
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