First Minister visits hospital spearheading Covid vaccine rollout

NICOLA Sturgeon has visited a centre where the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is due to begin today.

The First Minister met staff who are co-ordinating the vaccine, produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

The first to get the jab will be the vaccinators themselves, with priorities set by the UK-wide Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The Western General is one of 23 sites around Scotland which will act as vaccination centres for the priority groups.

Sturgeon said: “I’m grateful to everyone involved in giving this vaccine to those who need it most. By vaccinating the priority groups they will be covering those associated with 99% of preventable Covid-19 deaths.

“That is a very compelling reason to put these groups first in the queue for this vaccine.”

She added: “Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel. But I ask everyone to be patient as we work our way through this vaccination programme and continue to follow FACTS [wear face coverings, void crowded places, clean your hands regularly, keep a two-metre distance, self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms] to keep us all safe.”

The Scottish Government said it has received an initial batch of 65,000 doses, with more on the way. Each person requires two doses of the vaccine.

Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Lothian, said yesterday: “As we prepare to launch our staff vaccination clinics, we reach a crucial milestone in the fight against Covid-19. Across NHS Lothian, a huge amount of planning has and will continue to take place to ensure that we can deliver the vaccine quickly, efficiently and effectively.

“I am delighted that the first Covid vaccinations in NHS Lothian will be given tomorrow and would like to thank all our staff for their dedication in making this happen.”

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be stored at minus 70C (minus 94F) before being thawed out, presenting a logistical challenge in delivering it to care homes.

Planning is under way for the vaccine to be delivered to care home residents from December 14.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing on the pandemic the First Minister said the arrival of supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine in Scotland at the weekend is “positive news”. However, she cautioned there will be logistical challenges in distributing doses.

She added: “As we’ve said before, the use of vaccination, in time, should enable all of us to return to conditions which are much, much more like normal life. But vaccination is a major logistical exercise and it will take time to work our way through the vaccination programme.”

The priority groups are older adults in care homes and their carers, the over-80s and health and care workers, the over-75s, over-70s, clinically extremely vulnerable and all those over 65. They are followed by 16 to 64-year-olds with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality.

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