Vaccine roll-out slow

Wednesday January 27th 2021


Patient receives the Covid vaccination. Credit Steven Cornfield

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

The speed of the vaccine roll-out in East Lothian has been branded “unacceptable” as the county was revealed to be the third slowest council area to administer it in Scotland.

East Lothian MSP Iain Gray described the slow roll-out across the county as “worrying” and called on Scottish Government ministers “up their game” as the race to protect vulnerable groups continued.

His comments came as the latest figures released yesterday showed 5,052 people had been vaccinated across the county by January 24 – just 5.78 percent of the population.

Only Edinburgh and West Lothian had vaccinated a smaller percentage of residents up to the same date.

In Midlothian, the percentage of people vaccinated was at 7.53 percent with 5,614 people receiving their first dose.

East Lothian has one of the highest percentages of older residents in Scotland and is one of the fastest growing council areas. Just under nine per cent of the population is over the age of 75, higher than the Scottish national average.

Mr Gray said: “It is unacceptable that the percentage of older people in East Lothian who have received their first dose of the vaccine is less than that of the majority of other areas and that vaccinations in our care homes are also lagging behind.

“Whatever the reasons for this, the NHS and GPs must be supported to rectify the situation to ensure that people here receive the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

“These worrying figures have emerged at the same time as Scotland-wide concerns about the speed of the rollout of the vaccine programme here, compared with the rest of the UK. As has been said so often in recent weeks, we are in a race against the virus and Ministers must up their game to ensure that we do not fall behind on targets for vaccinating priority groups.”

However East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill called for people to cut those delivering the vaccines ‘some slack’.

He said: “It’s an unprecedented situation and challenging for all. Prioritising care homes was sensible even if it has resulted in a slower roll out. It was after all also following scientific advice. We’d all like it to be faster and easier. But all involved are trying and cutting them some slack and thanking them for their efforts will work better than carping.”

Queen Margaret University has been named as one of four mass vaccination centres in Lothian which will oversee the distribution of the first vaccine doses as it moves into the wider priority groups.

It is expected to open its centre in the next fortnight although no date has been confirmed as yet.

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, insisted this week that the vaccination programme was on track despite concerns raised about the speed of the roll-out.

Opposition parties said the rollout is “slow and sluggish” and that there was a “postcode lottery” of availability.

Mr Swinney, however, said: “Good progress has been made on the delivery of the vaccine for over-80s. We have got to 95% on care home residents, who are most at risk of morbidity from Covid.

“We are in a majority now in over-80s and that task will be completed by the end of the first week in February, and we will move onto the next priority group and complete that by the middle of February as announced.”

David Small, director of primary care transformation and Covid vaccination project lead, NHS Lothian, insisted all over 80s would be offered the opportunity to receive the jab at their GP practices by next Friday, February 5.

He said: “We understand that there is concern that some over-80s have not yet been invited for vaccination at GP clinics.

“GP practices are vaccinating their patients as fast as their vaccine supplies allow.

“Vaccines are being sent directly to GPs from the UK national distributor and neither GP practices nor NHS Lothian can influence the timings or quantities of the deliveries received.

“The supply chain for the vaccine is at times uneven and can be subject to delays; however, 100 per cent of GP practices have received a delivery of the vaccine and are currently in the process of getting more supplies.”

The latest vaccine stats from the Scottish Government up to Sunday, January 24, showed 5,052 people in East Lothian had received their first dose (5.78 percent of the population) with the number in Midlothian at 7.53 percent (5,614 people).

Edinburgh (4.94 percent/22,005 people) and West Lothian (5.03 percent/7,422 people) have the smallest percentage of residents vaccinated

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