HEALTH chiefs in Shetland have said they are confident they will have access to sufficient amounts of vaccine to ensure that second doses can be given within the recommended time frame – but the rollout of the first dose has come to a standstill.
After rushing ahead with the Covid-19 vaccination programme which saw almost half of the eligible part of the local population receiving the first dose of either the Pfizer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, current supply issues mean the rollout can only continue as of late March.
NHS Shetland’s consultant for public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said the supply issues were affecting not just Shetland but all health boards across the UK.
They were down to changes in the vaccines’ manufacturing processes, and the fact that vaccines needed to be quality tested before being sent out.
“There will be enough for second doses of the Pfizer vaccine within the timeframe, and we are still getting a small but steady supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said.
“We can only go by what we get told by the government and by our colleagues in Public Health Scotland, and that is that supply should start increasing again probably towards the end of March when we can continue doing the first dose.
“We know how many millions of doses of vaccine have been ordered by the UK government, but they have not been manufactured yet.
“It is manufactured as we speak, and there have been changes in some of the manufacturing processes.
“There has been a slowdown because manufacturers have been trying to improve the efficiency and increase the numbers that can be manufactured to meet demand.”
The situation is expected to ease once other vaccines come on stream, Dr Laidlaw said, though it is not known at this stage whether the Moderna vaccine will come to Shetland.
“If other boards are going to use those, then that means we will get more Pfizer and AstraZeneca,” she said.
“We still don’t know the details but we are optimistic that things will settle down. It is just a bit bumpy at the moment.”
She added: “As soon as we get vaccine in, we vaccinate – and we keep adjusting what we thing the timescale will be.”
Interim director of community health and social care Brian Chittick said NHS Shetland was well aware of the risk and was in regular contact with the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to “manage” that risk.
“We do have influence on it in the fact that we have those discussions and conversations with the Scottish Government who are controlling the supply,” Chittick said.
He said the aspiration was still to have the entire adult population Shetland vaccinated come May.
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