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Protecting the Most Vulnerable First: The Covid19 Vaccine

Welcome news that a vaccine will be available soon in Scotland and across the UK for Covid19.

Priority for the vaccination programme, which will be the largest ever seen, will be given to health and social care staff, older care home residents and those over 80 years old who live in the community. This could happen in Scotland next month, December.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has expressed concern over the distribution of the vaccine and that those living in the Highlands and Islands, will have difficulty in accessing it.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on 19th of November, Rhoda Grant said:

“The cabinet secretary will be aware that many of my constituents cannot access Covid-19 testing simply because of where they live. Can she give them the reassurance that they will receive the vaccine regardless of where they live? They really need a reassurance that they are not going to be left behind.”

Jeane Freeman, Health Secretary in the Scottish Government, has given those reassurances and further stated that agreement had been reached with the BMA over the terms and conditions for GPs. It is voluntary for GP practices to be involved in administering the vaccine. It will be a considerable additional workload.

Speaking in Parliament Jeane Freeman said:

“Scotland has a strong track record of delivering immunisation programmes, but this programme will be the largest of its kind ever undertaken and we will need more than 2,000 vaccinators and support staff by the end of January for the first phase.

“This is a national vaccination programme which will set out clearly the parameters within which NHS Boards will lead local delivery.

“NHS Boards will identify acceptable and accessible locations, both for mass vaccination and for local access.

“Taking account of local population and geography, they will undertake recruitment and deployment of staff, and the management of local vaccination clinics.

It is also vital that the public have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

Jeane Freeman explained:

“The global scientific, research and pharmaceutical community has come together and worked as never before. That is why we are seeing the front running vaccines delivered in months rather than years, but it is not at the expense of safety.

“Any COVID-19 vaccines deployed in Scotland will be used on the basis of compelling public health grounds, and only when the regulatory bodies and those charged with providing independent clinical advice are satisfied in terms of vaccine safety and effectiveness. The groups we vaccinate first will also be those most at risk from COVID-19.”

And on getting vaccinated, she added:

“We will be getting in touch with the first priority groups in the coming weeks and I urge people to take up the vaccine when they are offered it.  It offers additional protection that we don’t have by other means.

“I also want to thank those who are not in the first priority groups for their patience as we protect the most vulnerable people in our communities first, in line with the scientific and clinical evidence. 

“The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others from the virus in addition is to continue to check and follow the Scottish Government’s guidance for your area and above all to follow FACTS.”

Whilst reassured to some extent by the Health Secretary, Rhoda Grant said:

“I was grateful for the reassurances I was given in chamber today and I will be delighted to see these mobile testing centres. People in many parts of my constituency have certainly had to be patient.

“However, despite the cabinet secretary’s encouraging words, the real fear for many will be that the struggle to access a test will be mirrored by a new struggle to access the vaccine. I will be doing all that I can to point out to the government the nature of our remote and rural communities to make sure that she fully understands.”

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