Covid in Scotland: Care home vaccinations to begin on Monday

Covid in Scotland: Care home vaccinations to begin on Monday

Covid-19 vaccinations will begin in care homes on Monday, the Scottish government has said.

Staff and older residents will be next to receive the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine after more than 5,000 NHS staff and vaccinators got the jab last week.

There had been fears that homes would not be able to receive the first batch of doses due to logistical challenges.

It comes as the Conservatives called for vaccination plans to be published for each health board in Scotland.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said older care home residents had been prioritised to receive the vaccine along with care staff.

However she also warned that the pace of the vaccination programme remained dependent on the supply of the vaccine, which is manufactured in Belgium.

The first consignment of the vaccine arrived in the UK last week and was distributed to vaccination centres across the four nations.

They were initially stored in packs of 997 doses in specialist freezers because the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at a temperature of at least -70C.

The Scottish government said it had received confirmation the vaccine could be “packed down” by health boards into smaller sizes, which meant the programme could be rolled out to care homes.

The go-ahead was given by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The vaccine will be taken directly to care homes or to nearby vaccination centres in 195 five-dose vials, which Ms Freeman said would result in “minimal wastage”.

These vials will need to be diluted before use.

They can also be transported in an unfrozen state for up to 12 hours and can be stored undiluted for up to five days, the Scottish health secretary said.

Ms Freeman said: “We are providing the vaccine to people in care homes according to the order of priority set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and we will work through that order of priority as quickly as vaccine supply allows.”

She said that ministers were hopeful that “subject to further stringent approvals”, other vaccines, such as those being developed by AstraZeneca and Moderna, would be available soon.

It follows comments to BBC radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme by Westminster Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier this week that the speed of the vaccination programme over the coming weeks would be determined by how quickly the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine could be manufactured in Belgium.

He said: “We’ve got a broad schedule and there’ll be several millions for the UK as a whole and so several hundred thousand for Scotland over the remainder of this month.

“We’ve got that as a broad delivery schedule, but obviously the manufacturing process itself is complicated so we’ve got to get the stuff in the country.”

The Scottish Conservatives have called for each individual health board in Scotland to publish its vaccination plans to prevent what they described as a “postcode lottery” from developing.

The party’s health spokesman Donald Cameron, said: “Opposition MSPs seeking to scrutinise plans and get answers for their constituents are struggling to get information from the SNP and health boards.

“The answers we do get are frequently sluggish and incomplete.

“The public needs to know every detail has been covered. Secrecy will not benefit anyone.”

The Scottish government said talk of a lottery was “irresponsible” and said Jeane Freeman had offered to meet with opposition parties to discuss details of how the vaccine was being delivered.

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