Covid Scotland: Our hunt for the Fort Kinnaird vaccine bus

Young people do not shop at Curry’s. They buy their gadgets online.
Mobile vaccine buses offer a drop in vaccine service.Mobile vaccine buses offer a drop in vaccine service.
Mobile vaccine buses offer a drop in vaccine service.

This is the advice I would have offered NHS Lothian had they consulted me as to the location of their drop-in vaccine bus last week – a mobile clinic which, among other things, aims to boost the vaccine uptake in young people.

I am not a young person. My husband and I are in our early 40s, but having been due our second vaccine doses while on holiday in England, we were keen to get a needle in our arms as soon as possible – stopping off at the vaccine bus at Edinburgh’s Fort Kinnaird shopping centre on the drive home.

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Unable to find anything signposting us to the service, we began a fun game (marginally less fun after after five hours on the M6) of “spot the bus”. After two laps of each of the three separate car parks, we finally found it, tucked away down the side of the electronics retailer, somewhat off the beaten track.

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The result was that everyone who got a vaccine the same time as us was in our demographic: 40-somethings pro-actively seeking out their second dose of Astra Zeneca. Many of us had children with us – the bonus of the bus is that the vaccine is administered outside, meaning that kids can wait nearby. It was quick, easy and efficient.

However, not a single younger person came near the bus while we were there. It would have been better located outside of H&M, Schuh or Primark – or a restaurant or cafe. In short, places where young people go.

In Israel, the authorities faced the same slowing on uptake of the jag back in February. Their solution was to set up clinics outside busy bars – and offer a voucher for a soft drink with every vaccine. In the US, jags are available at every high street chemist on a drop-in basis, while financial incentives have been launched to boost vaccine uptake. In France, the tack is slightly different: no vaccine, no access to fun.

While some of those tactics may not work here – the cash-strapped NHS is unlikely to hand out £50 notes with a dose – simply putting the vaccines within the grasp of young people would be a good start.

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