A million Scots will be vaccinated against coronavirus by the end of January through a national drive to recruit more than 2,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dentists to a new Covid jab workforce.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman told MSPs the rollout of a vaccine to every person over the age of 18 in Scotland – 4.4 million people – will be “one of the biggest civilian logistical challenges in our lifetime” and some key details are still unclear.
The first “early and limited” delivery of vaccines to Scotland is expected to take place in the first week of December and officials are hopeful some individuals may be able to be vaccinated in their own home, depending on the properties of the drug.
Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna have announced in recent weeks over 90% effectiveness in phase three clinical trials for each of their candidate vaccines, and a further 10 are still undergoing medical research – including three in Scotland.
Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government is planning on the basis that the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will be able to recommend that a license be given to at least one of the vaccines.
The health secretary said the global scientific research and pharmaceutical community had come together like never before but while the speed of development is impressive, “it is not at the expense of safety”.
She said: “In the first wave of our plan, from December through to February, we will vaccinate front-line health and social care staff, older residents in care homes, care home staff, all those aged 80 and over, unpaid carers and personal assistants, and those who will be delivering the vaccination programme.
“The current interim advice from JCVI is that we then work through those aged over 65 and those under 65 who are at an additional clinical risk, and then we move to the wider population.”
Ms Freeman said ministers were hopeful that more than one vaccine may be available “over the coming weeks into 2021” but said there was still a number of challenges and unknowns to the delivery programme that could take until spring to fully resolve.
She said those in the first tranche to receive the jab will be contacted in December and January by mail or, for health care workers, by their employer. This information will include where they will receive the vaccine and how to make an appointment.
Online booking system
A national online booking system will be available for the beginning of the phase two of the vaccination programme in February but the health secretary confirmed more than 2,000 workers will be recruited by the end of the first stage.
“We need a workforce that is diverse in its skills and availability,” Ms Freeman said.
“Our planning assumption is that, for vaccinators and support staff, we will need over 2,000 by the end of January so that, vaccine availability and delivery schedules yet to be confirmed, we will be able to vaccinate around a million people by that time.
“We, of course, need registered clinicians to vaccinate and to supervise vaccinations, nurses and doctors but also the wider clinical workforce, such as pharmacists, dentists and optometrists.”
More to follow.
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