On Wednesday, the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman addressed parliament on the rollout of the vaccination programme in Scotland, and this evening the deployment plan was published.
You can read the document in full below. This plan will be updated as the vaccination programme is rolled out.
This is the largest mass vaccination programme ever conducted in Scotland, and is a logistical matter involving many branches of government and the NHS boards in Scotland.
Ms Freeman prefaced her statement by explaining that the latest 7 day rate of Covid-19 cases is now 262 per 100,000 with a test positivity rate of 10.1%.
The Health Secretary confirmed that the new variant is increasing its dominance in the new cases reported each day, and that ‘we face a more perilous situation than at any point in this pandemic’. As at Wednesday morning, 191,965 people have had their first dose of the vaccine in Scotland and 2,990 have had a second dose.
The plan to roll out the vaccine is now well under way. It began in December when the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine became available, and now with access to the more easily transported Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the Health Secretary estimates that by the end of February around 400,000 people a week will be vaccinated.
From 8 December to 12 January over 80% of care home residents and 55% of care home staff, just under 52% of frontline NHS and social care staff have been vaccinated. Just over 2% of those aged 80 and over living in the community have been vaccinated since 4 January. By the first week in February all of these groups are expected to be fully vaccinated with the first dose.
It is the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation (JCVI) which advises government on the priority given to certain groups based broadly on age. The virus is known to be more deadly to older people, or those with an underlying health condition.
Priority groups 1 and 2 include residents in care homes for older adults, care home staff, frontline health and social care staff and those aged over 80 who live in the community.
We were told today that it is hoped to have vaccinated those over 50 who are in Priority Group 9 by May.
Today the government has 562,125 doses of the vaccine. 365,000 are in Scotland and a further 155,025 are in transit or in storage awaiting ordering and delivery.
With the vaccine stock which the government has, and which they project will be delivered over the next few weeks, the Health Secretary estimated that by mid February, all those over 70 will be vaccinated. She also confirmed that by the beginning of March those who are over 65 and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will have received the vaccine. That covers the JCVI priority groups 1 to 5 and amounts to 1.4 million people. The second dose will begin at the end of February as it has to be given 12 weeks after the first dose. This guidance changed recently.
We were advised of the complicated technicalities of ordering and delivery during a government briefing today, and were clearly told that there is no question of the government either hoarding or stockpiling vaccines. Vaccine is delivered to a central point in England and then ordered by health boards and distributed to them in accordance with a set procedure.
Many people have come forward to volunteer their services as vaccinators. The Health Secretary confirmed that the government has just under 5,500 individual vaccinators registered not including participating GPs. Over 4,000 have undergone training for the Pfizer vaccine and 4,700 have been trained in using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The government is also planning on recruiting people such as pharmacists, dentists and optometrists to act in this capacity too.
Mass vaccination centres
At this point GPs are administering the vaccine as well as hospitals and care homes. When the wider population is involved in the programme it is hoped that they will be able to access mass vaccination centres open from 8am to 8pm, community pharmacies, mobile vaccination clinics. With all of these resources the government estimates that around 20,000 vaccinations can be administered from a single location.
Queen Margaret University in East Lothian and the EICC in Morrison Street have both been identified as possible large vaccination centres. It is key that there is plenty of space for patients to enter, go through the administrative procedures which will be necessary before being vaccinated. Then there is also a need for any patients to be observed for around 15 minutes after getting the vaccine to make sure that there is no adverse reaction before allowing them to leave. It is for that reason important that there are doctors among the staff at these centres.
But we understand that it is not entirely necessary to exhaust all of the priority groups before opening a mass vaccination centre. These will be rolled out just as soon as possible, dependent on vaccine supply and the readiness of the locations.
The Cabinet Secretary is keen to have a range of options which meet the needs of individuals. In some cases there are very fit octogenarians who would be able to use a walk in centre, and in others they might be better served by attending their own GP.
For some groups within the community it will perhaps be more fitting and more accessible for them to attend a community pharmacy, but the essential in the government’s view is to meet people’s needs.
The setting up of a mass vaccination clinic will of course be driven more by the delivery of the supply of the vaccine, and it will be key to ensure the delivery of sufficient supply.
The Deputy Chief Medical Officer told The Edinburgh Reporter: “Our ideal is for people to have a choice. At the beginning it wasn’t that easy as we had to move very quickly but as we widen that we would like to offer people some choice.”
Vaccine Management Tool
She then reminded us that the plan is to have a digital platform which will allow people to change either the time or place of their appointments. The Vaccination Management Tool was developed in response to the pandemic and it functions on PCs tablets and iPhones. It can be used in any setting where the vaccine is being administered. It means that vaccinators will be able to see immediately whether the patient is being given a dose of vaccine for the first or second time and also which vaccine they received.
The information collected on the app will be linked with testing data to help show the efficacy of each vaccine. The app was already trialled in Greater Glasgow and Clyde for the winter flu programme. It was developed by NHS Education for Scotland in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian and NHS Fife, NHS National Services Scotland and Public Health Scotland.
The experts we heard from today confirmed that the vaccine is not immediately effective. It is thought to be effective around 28 days after it is administered, and of course nobody yet knows how long the vaccine will work for. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer confirmed that it is also not yet clear whether this will become an annual vaccination such as the winter flu programme is.
The vaccine deployment plan is here and features a useful FAQ at the end.