Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

– in the Scottish Parliament on 8th December 2020.

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Photo of Donald Cameron Donald Cameron Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme. (S5T-02576)

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

The first vaccinations began across all mainland national health service boards today. NHS Orkney will begin tomorrow, NHS Western Isles will begin on 10 December, and NHS Shetland will begin on 11 December.

Initial vaccinations are for national health service and social care staff, as I set out in my statement last week.

Those vaccinations will take place in 21 sites, close to the vaccine deployment centres. From next week, we will begin to vaccinate care home residents and people aged 80 and over who are in-patients.

Three webinar training sessions, led by our deputy chief medical officer, Dr Steedman, have been held for the Pfizer vaccine. There were 4,035 attendees, who were a mix of vaccinators, pharmacists and other clinical colleagues.

The vaccine management tool went live from Tuesday 1 December and all cohort data for over-80s, care home residents and health and social care workers has now been community health index—CHI—matched and shared with boards, so that we can manage the data flow as people are vaccinated.

The freephone Scottish Covid-19 vaccination helpline went live today, on 0800 030 8013.

Photo of Donald Cameron Donald Cameron Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary. Last week, she and the First Minister committed to publishing the Covid-19 vaccination plan that was reviewed at Cabinet, as well as a national list of vaccination centres and information on how many storage freezers are in each health board.

Can the cabinet secretary give a fixed date for the publication of that information? If not, can she give an indication of when the data will be published?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

I can, indeed. The information will be sent to all members of the Scottish Parliament and lodged with the Scottish Parliament information centre tomorrow. It will include other information that I hope will assist members in answering their constituents’ questions about the safety of the vaccination, the regulation process and so on.

We will follow that iteratively.

A point that I want to make, which I ask members please to hold on to, is that, as supplies arrive and as new vaccines are approved, as they might be, the information that we send them will need to be updated. We will be very clear in the information that we give members and the timeframe that it covers. Members should expect updates as more information becomes available to us.

Photo of Donald Cameron Donald Cameron Conservative

We know that we have enough vaccine to vaccinate approximately 32,000 people. Approximately how many people will be vaccinated this week? Will the 32,000 number be reached by the end of December? Will the Government commit to publishing a rolling update on the number of people who are vaccinated each week?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

We hope that, towards the end of this week, we will be able to give an indication of the number of people who have been vaccinated in this first week. Members should remember that the first week will not be comparable to any other week, because our vaccinators are handling a new vaccine and need to be sure about how they do that, which, in part, is why vaccination is taking place in centres near the deployment sites.

We are considering the frequency with which, thereafter, we will publish data that is robust and therefore publishable. I am happy to let members know the timeframe in which we will operate that. Again, information will be sent to members once we are confident about its robustness and accuracy.

As I heard Matt Hancock say this morning on “Good Morning Scotland”, although we have an indication of the volume of supply, we need to remember that Pfizer’s 174 approval for the vaccine—the approval to supply—means that every single batch needs to be batch tested. That will streamline over time, but, initially, that will create an extra element in the delivery chain. We therefore need to be confident that, as the vaccines arrive in the United Kingdom, are tested and so on and are on their way to us, we can say at that point how many additional doses we have. As we get to those various points throughout this month and into the next, we will make sure that members are aware of that.

The Presiding Officer:

I am going to squeeze in a couple of supplementary questions, if the questions can be brief.

Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

What plans does the Scottish Government have to encourage maximum uptake of the vaccine by eligible groups?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

A number of plans are in train, not least to supply proper information for informed patient consent. As I said last week, information will go to every household in Scotland at the beginning of March. There will be other aspects of marketing and public information. As we finalise the overall information plan over this month and the next, and probably into February, we will make sure that it is issued to members so that they know what to expect. However, in order that members can answer constituents’ questions, I would say that a lot of the initial plan concerns safety, the regulatory process, what to expect and so on.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

I thank all the staff involved in the vaccination programme.

I was concerned to hear that some staff phone lines were jammed yesterday with front-line workers trying to book appointments for their vaccine. I know that NHS Lothian has apologised. What resources are in place to ensure that we do not get jammed phone lines? Will all the helplines and phone lines be free of charge? NHS Lothian has said that it will reimburse workers who had to queue for a long time for an appointment.

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

We are talking about one board out of 14 that had that difficulty. As Ms Lennon said, that board has apologised and has ensured that it has additional resources.

Boards are more likely to issue appointments and information to staff by email, because we prioritise within the patient-facing group of NHS employees to ensure that we see those NHS employees first who are most at risk from the virus. Understandably, perhaps, NHS staff are enthusiastic about the vaccine—that is good—and are contacting their board to book an appointment.

We ensure that the phone lines, which are the right source for staff or anyone else, are adequately resourced. Our national helpline certainly is.

It is important that NHS staff know that patient-facing NHS staff, particularly in Covid red areas—I am talking about intensive care units, high-dependency units, Covid wards and so on, and also primary care and our ambulance service—will be contacted first. That will often be by an email to their work account. In the initial stages, that may be done at relatively short notice, when we know that supplies are arriving. Boards need to know for sure that a supply is arriving before they issue appointments.

All of that will smooth out over the coming weeks. Initially, we will have those glitches and interruptions, but we will make sure that, every time that we have supplies of the vaccine, we are ready to vaccinate those who need it, in the order of priority that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has set out for us.