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Coronavirus / Supply issues slow down vaccination rollout

The AstraZeneca vaccine. Photo: Courtesy of Hillswick GP surgery

NHS SHETLAND says its vaccination team could have the islands’ whole adult population inoculated against Covid-19 in less than two weeks if they had access to sufficient vaccine supplies.

But as things stand the vaccine rollout is likely to last into June, and possibly even July.

In a vaccine media briefing on Thursday morning the health board confirmed that more or less everybody in the priority groups one to nine have had at least the first dose.

These are people aged 50 and over, health and care frontline staff, people with underlying health issues, all adults with learning disabilities and unpaid carers.

Most people in the care homes as well as those working in health and care frontline have also had their second dose.

But the speed of the rollout is hampered by the slow supply of both the Pfizer and the AstraZenaca vaccines.

Consultant for public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said: “There continues to be an uncertainty around the vaccine supply. We have another 5,000 to 6,000 people to give the first dose to. We could do that within ten days if we had the vaccine.

NHS Shetland consultant for public health Dr Susan Laidlaw.

“It [the rollout] is quite gradual at the moment because we don’t have the vaccine supplies to do the big clinics we were doing at some point. So, we are just gradually carrying on with the first doses, but the bulk of the vaccination are now is second doses.”

She added that the vaccination team had now started contacting people aged 45 to 49 to arrange an appointment.

This was slightly ahead of where other health boards are with the vaccination programme, she said.

Laidlaw described the vaccine supply as “erratic” and said that the health board was putting on clinics as and when they received a shipment.

“We don’t really know when we are going to complete the under 50s age group – we just keep going as we get the vaccine in,” she said.

People aged below 50 and living in Unst, Yell and Whalsay are now expected to travel to Lerwick to get vaccinated rather than receiving it through their GP surgeries on the islands as those on the priority groups one to nine did.

Public transport to travel to Lerwick for vaccination is free of charge, the health board advised.

As of 31 March 65.2 per cent of islanders have had their first dose of one of the two available Covid-19 vaccines, and 14.3 per cent have had their second.

Dr Laidlaw added that the Moderna vaccine would likely not be offered in Shetland, or other island health boards, due to the complexities of transportation and storage of the vaccine.