The first wave of Covid-19 vaccinations in Scotland could be completed by the spring, the Health Secretary has said.
Those giving the vaccine, people aged over 80 and health and social care workers will be the first to receive the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, after the UK on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve it for use.
Jeane Freeman said Scotland will receive 8.2% of the 800,000 doses – just over 65,500 – in the first delivery secured by the UK, with more to come in the weeks ahead.
The first coronavirus vaccines in Scotland will be administered on Tuesday.
She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that the doses will go to the 23 commercial-size freezers in acute hospitals around Scotland which can hold the vaccine in the very low temperature it requires.
Ms Freeman said discussions are under way about the logistics of distributing the vaccine, which has to be stored at an ultra-low temperature of between minus 70C and minus 80C, and it is not possible to take it into care homes at this point.
She said: “The doses come to us in packs of 997 and we need to know to what degree can we pack that down into smaller pack sizes, because if we can’t then we need to absolutely bring those who are to be vaccinated to those freezers, in effect to the centres, because there’s a limit to how much you can transport the doses once you’ve defrosted them.
“The problem is the pack size – 997 doses each then has to be used in a very limited time period once you’ve defrosted it. We don’t want to waste any of this vaccine so it’s not possible at this point in smaller doses to take it, for example, into care homes – that’s the work that’s under way and our chief pharmaceutical officer is busy talking to both Pfizer and to the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) about how can we transport this.
“For Tuesday the intention is we would start by vaccinating those who will be vaccinating others and we will bring them to where we’re storing the doses.”
She said future plans include mass vaccination centres but that will be further down the line when vaccinators are dealing with much younger people.
Other plans include mobile vaccination centres and high street locations where people can go for a jab.
Ms Freeman was asked how long she thinks the programme will take if the aim is to have just over four million adults in Scotland vaccinated.
She said: “As long as the supplies arrive in a regular basis and other vaccines come through and are authorised, then we would expect to have completed the programme for those who are in the first big wave, so that’s those over 80, health and social care workers and so on down by about the spring, and then we will move to the younger age group.”
She said the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations has advised health authorities to focus on age priority, working from the oldest citizens down to the the youngest.
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