Scots will begin receiving the Covid-19 vaccine in two days’ time as the immunisation programme begins.
The first batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in Scotland under military guard and are being held in special freezers at secret locations.
The over 80s and health and social care workers will be priorities for vaccination as the health boards discuss setting up immunisation centres at football stadiums and other public buildings.
The Scottish Government said: “The vaccines will initially be held in 23 freezers sited in NHS board vaccine deployment centres. To start with, delivery will be close to vaccine deployment centres.
“We are looking at a number of options around large vaccination centres, these include football grounds, airports and others, although these venues would not come on stream until later next year, once we have delivery of sufficient quantities of the vaccine to support the establishment of very large vaccination centres.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed the arrival of the first batch of the vaccine ahead of jabs being given from Tuesday. She said the vaccine has to be kept at between -70C and -80C and, writing in The Sunday Post, said 23 special freezers have been bought and sited around Scotland.
Ms Freeman said: “Science has given us hope and we are starting on a journey which will eventually allow us to escape this terrible virus.”
Scotland yesterday recorded 22 coronavirus deaths and 777 new cases. The number of deaths was down from the 41 announced on Friday and the number of cases 189 lower.
The Health Secretary added: “I ask everyone to be patient as we work through these groups as vaccine supply allows. I urge you to go for the vaccine when it’s your turn, but continue to follow the rules as set out in FACTS. And we will eventually reach the end of this pandemic by working together.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the arrival of the vaccines, which claim 95% success rate, as “positive news”.
Scotland will receive 8.2% of the UK’s 800,000 doses – just over 65,500 – in the first delivery secured by the UK, with more expected in the weeks ahead.
Downing Street has suggested 10 million doses could be available in Britain before the end of the year. However, it was reported yesterday that production problems in October meant only four million would reach the UK in December. A shortage of lipid nanoparticles – bubbles of fat which deliver the genetic code of the virus’s spike protein into the body, delayed production, with experts suggesting some groups, the youngest and healthiest, might not get the vaccine, which comes in two doses, until well into next year.
A report yesterday warned most Scots could be given the Covid vaccine by next summer only if government ministers step up preparations.
Our Scottish Future, a think tank set up by former PM Gordon Brown, said the Scottish Government is “behind the curve” in its preparations to roll out four million vaccinations over the coming months.
It claims the Scottish Government’s vaccine programme is “lacking in detail, planning and adequate forward thinking”.
It said there is “no real plan” on how to prioritise and engage two million under-65s who will be given jabs in the later stages of the vaccination programme.
The report, by former World Health Organisation worker Evie Robertson, said the Scottish and UK governments need to coordinate messaging better to boost trust in and compliance with the programme.
More support staff need to be recruited to support the 2000 vaccinators carrying out the programme, added the report.
Without extra action, it warns that the problems seen with the winter flu vaccination programme will be a “precursor” for the far bigger challenges presented by Covid.
It concludes: “So far, the Scottish Government looks to be behind the curve against strategic and operational requirements.”
Professor Jim Gallagher, chairman of Our Scottish Future, said: “The medical and economic toll Scotland has paid has been among the worst in Europe.
“But the UK Government’s highly successful vaccination strategy – for once, genuinely world-beating – presents an opportunity to turn the corner.
“Now it’s up to the Scottish Government to vaccinate Scotland, and they need a much fuller strategy, clear communications and an operational plan where speed is of the essence.
“A Scottish Vaccines Minister needs to take unequivocal responsibility for delivery. Scotland cannot afford for this to fail.”
The Scottish Government said: “This is claim is simply not true. Scotland is the first part of the UK to set out an indicative delivery timetable.
“All four nations have confirmed that they will begin their Covid-19 vaccination programme on the same day – Tuesday, December 8. In Scotland we have also outlined that the programme for care home residents will start from December 14. We have also committed to writing to members, as for flu, to confirm local and national plans, and we will also publish our Service Delivery Framework once finalised.”
Meanwhile, a terminally ill father has won support from many cancer charities for his campaign for end-of- life patients to be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Fred Banning, 38, from East Renfrewshire, has received backing from charities including Cancer Support Scotland, Marie Curie, the Beatson Cancer Charity and Hospice UK.
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