Health chiefs defend Lothian jab rates and announce mass vaccinations will start next week

Health chiefs have defended the Capital’s coronavirus vaccination programme after new figures showed Edinburgh is lagging behind the rest of Scotland.

Mass vaccination will be administered at the EICC

According to weekly Public Health Scotland figures, compiled on Monday, January 25 and published on Wednesday, NHS Lothian has the lowest vaccination rate out of every health board in Scotland.

However, health chiefs say they are on track to have vaccinated 80 per cent of the capital’s over-80s population by the end of the month, with the rest of the age group set to be vaccinated by February 5.

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And they have announced that the first mass vaccination centres are preparing to go live in Lothian, starting from next week.

Jabs: The Strathbrock Partnership Centre in Broxburn

Across the NHS Lothian health board area, which includes the Capital, West Lothian, Midlothian and East Lothian, just 7.29 per cent (55,082) of residents have received their first vaccination dose.

Comparable health boards, in terms of population and density, such as Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and NHS Grampian, have achieved vaccination rates of 9.04 per cent (89,062) and 9.42 per cent (45,702) respectively.

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh City Council area is the worst local authority region in Scotland for coronavirus vaccination rates, with just 4.94 per cent (22,005) of residents receiving their first vaccination dose.

This is nearly half the Scotland-wide average of 9.14 per cent, which itself is well behind the UK-average of 12.4 per cent.

'Right on track' - David Small, NHS Lothian

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for NHS Lothian said Public Health Scotland’s weekly vaccination figures do not include those given in GP surgeries - and that while other health boards are relying on large-scale vaccination centres, NHS Lothian is using more surgeries.

Hours later, NHS Lothian announced that centres in Edinburgh and West Lothian will begin vaccinating patients on Monday, February 1 as part of Wave Two of the national vaccination programme.

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) will be capable of vaccinating more than 21,000 people a week through 45 stations.

Strathbrock Partnership Centre in Broxburn, West Lothian, will also open for vaccinations on Monday with six stations, capable of vaccinating 2352 people every week, before the centre moves to Pyramids Business Park on February 15, which will provide 14,280 vaccinations every week at 34 stations.

A drive-through vaccination centre will follow when it is launched on February 10 at Queen Margaret University in East Lothian. It will have 16 stations and be capable of vaccinating 8,000 people a week.

Defending the vaccination rate, David Small, director of primary care transformation and vaccination programme lead, NHS Lothian said: “NHS Lothian is right on track with phase one of the vaccination programme.

“During that first phase, a total of 3564 residents in care homes across Lothian have been given the vaccine.

“A further 47,742 health and social care workers and care home staff have also been vaccinated, as well as over 800 hospital inpatients over the age of 80.

“GP practices continue to deliver the injections as fast as their vaccine supplies allow.

“Thousands of doses of the vaccine have been distributed directly to GP practices across all four regions and they are on track to ensure that over 80 per cent of people over the age of 80 are vaccinated as a priority by January 31 with the rest of this age group completed by February 5.”

A team of around 350 volunteer vaccinators has also been created to work in the mass vaccination sites. They will be supported by around 100 administrative staff.

The vaccine centres are the first of a total of 15 to be rolled out across Lothian.

On February 15, a vaccination centre with 32 stations will be created at Edinburgh Park in the former Royal Bank of Scotland building, as well as another venue at the Royal Highland Showground in March.

Centres will be run on smaller scale in more community hubs in Midlothian Community Hospital and East Lothian Community Hospital as well as health and partnership centres in Sighthill, Pennywell Craigmillar, Leith and Gracemount, Edinburgh, Strathbrock and Howden in West Lothian.

People aged between 75-79 and those most clinically vulnerable will be given appointments to be vaccinated by their GP, while those aged between 70-74 and 65 to 69 will be invited into mass vaccination sites and smaller community venues for their injections.

Patients are being urged to keep their first appointment in order to provide protection to as many people, as quickly as possible even if their appointment venue may not be the one that is closest to where they live

Smaller community clinics will deliver vaccinations in the local area for people with complex needs or who, for other reasons, absolutely cannot and would not be expected to travel to a mass centre.

If patients absolutely cannot keep the appointment they have been given, they are being asked to call the Covid-19 Vaccination Helpline on 0800 030 8013 to rearrange their appointment. If they are aged 75 and over, they should phone their GP practice to rearrange your appointment.

More details and information about the venues can be found on NHS Lothian’s website https://www.nhslothian.scot/Coronavirus/Vaccine/Pages/default.aspx

Last week, NHS Lothian chiefs said the low number of vaccines administered in the capital was due to the high number of care homes in Edinburgh, and Scottish Ggovernment policy was to vaccinate care home residents and staff as top priority.

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