The vaccine rollout to Scotland’s care homes will be a slow process, the head of the body that represents private care providers has warned.
It comes as care home residents across Scotland begin receiving the coronavirus vaccine from today.
Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of Scottish Care, said it was a “tremendous moment”, but warned it would take time to vaccinate everyone.
Older residents and care staff will be offered the Pfizer vaccine first.
There were initial fears that care homes would not be able to receive the first batch of the drug because of logistical issues associated with its storage at ultra low temperatures.
The vaccine, which first arrived in Scotland from its manufacturers in Belgium last week, needs to be stored at about -70C.
More than 65,000 doses have been distributed to vaccination centres across Scotland where they have been “packed down” before being diluted for use in care homes.
So far more than 5,000 frontline NHS staff and vaccinators have been given the first of two injections of the drug, which cuts cases of Covid by about 95%.
The vaccination programme is beginning after the most recent official weekly figures showed there have been 78 deaths in care homes in Scotland where covid 19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Mr Macaskill said there were about 50,000 adults in care homes in Scotland and that prioritising those most in need was key.
He said: “This is an absolutely tremendous moment. It has really been nine months of absolute harrowing heartache and the news that we’re slowly beginning to vaccinate some of our most vulnerable residents is absolutely brilliant.”
He added: “Practically, we need to work with the fact that we have a supply which is the first phase supply and we need to prioritise those most at risk. And so this will be a slow process.”
He said public health officials were operating on age categorisation in care homes – those over the age of 80 will receive the vaccine first, along with those who have the greatest clinical need.
Scotland Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she was hopeful pressure on vaccine supplies would be eased in the event vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Moderna were cleared for use.
She said: “We are hopeful that subject to further stringent approvals, other vaccines may meet MHRA approval for supply – for example, AstraZeneca and Moderna – enabling more vaccinations to take place at a faster rate.”
“In the meantime it remains vital that we all stick to the published restrictions and follow public advice to keep suppressing the virus to as low a level as possible.”