AS A second local mass vaccination centre at the Gilbertson Park games hall is set to open this weekend, NHS Shetland managers have explained some of the complexities involved in getting sufficient amounts of vaccine to the isles.
With two vaccination centres in operation, the local health board could – potentially – vaccinate 5,000 people a week.
But that is unlikely to happen due to the intricacies of getting the right amount of vaccines to the isles.
And despite the speedy rollout so far, the health board is not able to say exactly when it expects to have delivered the first dose of the vaccine to the entire adult population. It will likely be “May time” depending on a number of variables.
During an online press briefing on Thursday, director of community care Brian Chittick said vaccine supplies were expected to slow down over coming weeks while the capacity to vaccinate has been ramped up.
So far more than 5,500 people from the top groups of the vaccination priority list have had their first jag. Currently those aged 65 to 79 as well as people who have been shielding during the summer are invited to receive their first dose.
Chittick emphasised that the race for the vaccine was a national issue as other health boards were also trying to vaccinate their populations as quickly as possible.
The challenge is to correctly align vaccine supplies with the number of people receiving appointments, he said.
“The complexity of the supply line is having an impact in that we are now aligning what we can do with the actual vaccine that we have in stock,” he said.
“Previously we had a lot of vaccine in stock, so we could get through it at a very fast rate; that might slow down slightly as we align to the vaccines that we got.”
Vaccination co-ordinator Dr Susan Laidlaw said the way the Pfizer vaccine is packaged in trays of almost 1,000 doses each is adding a further challenge to smaller health boards.
“We either have a lot at one point or we have none for a while and wait for the next ones to arrive, and that causes problems,” she said.
“It is very complex and unlike the flu vaccination where we get our supply at the beginning of the season, the Covid-19 vaccine arrives on a weekly or even two/three times a week.”
The rollout of the first dose of the vaccination will be further slowed down by the fact that care home residents are starting to get their second dose later this month, to be followed by health and social care staff who have had their first dose just before Christmas.
Laidlaw confirmed that the second dose will be same amount than the first dose and will also have to be of the same type of vaccine.
“That makes things really complicated, making sure that we have the right amount but also the right type of vaccine,” she said.
Describing the process as a “juggle” she confirmed that the health board was aiming to give the second dose well ahead of the 12-week deadline to ensure that sufficient vaccine is available.
“We can’t be getting to 12 weeks and then suddenly have no vaccines. We plan to do these a bit earlier to add some leeway,” she said.
She also confirmed that the uptake for the Covid-19 vaccines is “really high, far higher than what we have seen for the flu vaccine, for example”.
“There are very few people who can’t have the vaccine for clinical reasons, and there are very few people who are choosing not to have the vaccine,” she said.
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