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NHS Highland takes delivery of potentially game changing Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine as north GPs say they are ready to play a major role in delivering the jabs

By Scott Maclennan

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A nurse prepares to administer the Covid-19 vaccine.
A nurse prepares to administer the Covid-19 vaccine.

NHS Highland has revealed the first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have arrived in the region four days ahead of schedule.

Previously, the health board had been told to expect deliveries on January 9 but the first doses arrived yesterday.

It is hoped the delivery will see the vaccination programme sped-up as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is much easier to disperse because it can be stored more easily.

NHS Highland says it is looking to ramp up its efforts to deliver Covid innoculations to priority groups – medical staff and care home staff and residents.

A spokesman for the board said: “NHS Highland has well developed plans, based on national guidance, for the continued rollout of our Covid vaccination programme.

“As per the guidance we have been initially targetting the key priority groups including care home residents and staff and health and care staff who are working with Covid positive patients, this has included general practitioners.

“The first doses of AstraZeneca vaccine were estimated to be with NHS Highland on January 9, however we are pleased to say that those doses arrived on January 5 and we will proceed to expedite the use of the vaccine as a result.”

This comes as leading GPs have made it known that they are keen to get involved in dispensing the shots, which offer the greatest hope for the country to emerge not just from the current lockdown but from the pandemic as a whole.

Writing online, the secretary of the Highland Local Medical Committee, Dr Iain Kennedy, said: “Scotland’s GPs prepare to start administering the Covid vaccine – we await delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

“At the Highland Local Medical Committee we start from a 2020 foundation of GPs and NHS colleagues (mainly community nurses) having delivered a record number of flu vaccines.”

But the slow pace vaccination has sparked widespread public concern that more that could be done done while the number of vaccinations carried out in each health board remains a mystery.

Earlier, the UK government confirmed that it would start issuing daily statistics on those who have been vaccinated across the UK, citing the importance of being transparent.

This prompted Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross to say that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has “no excuses” to avoid publishing daily Scottish totals after apparently refusing to commit to doing so.

“There are now no excuses left for the SNP Government to dodge publishing daily vaccination rates alongside the daily infection numbers as soon as possible,” he said.

“The SNP’s evasion to try and avoid scrutiny is nothing new but on something so important, the Scottish public must have the same information as will be provided across the UK.

“People need to be given hope. A breakdown each day on the vaccination figures, along with the dosages received by the Scottish Government, will show an end to the pandemic is in sight and provide much needed transparency.

“Reports of NHS staff having to wait hours in freezing conditions for the vaccine are also very concerning and must be investigated immediately. The incident shows why it’s vital the SNP start communicating clearly who will receive the vaccine and when.”

The Scottish Government was asked for comment.

Click here to read more about the rollout of vaccines

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