Covid vaccine problems must be sorted out quickly as fight against virus is set to continue – Daniel Johnson MSP

I don’t know if the weather is getting better in time for the lifting of restrictions or if it's the other way round.

The vaccination programme against Covid is set to continue for some time yet with people needing booster shots and as new variants emerge (Picture: Michael Gillen)

Whichever it is, the sunshine or the ability to go out and meet other people and enjoy events, it’s starting to feel like we can enjoy life again after months of lockdown.

All thanks to the vaccine. But we cannot pretend it has been seamless and the situation in Glasgow and the new variants demonstrate there will be unexpected issues and setbacks.

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Covid isn't going anywhere soon. This is going to be like fighting a forest fire. We can control it but only if we respond rapidly to fight flare-ups and recognise that while subdued, the fire is still there.

Which is why the ongoing issues and glitches with vaccination appointments need to be urgently addressed. People are still being missed off and others are finding it impossible to reschedule for times and places they can attend.

I know because I was one of the ones missed off and left endlessly calling helplines trying to figure out how to get my vaccine.

When my wife, who’s two years younger than me, got her blue letter, I thought mine would arrive soon. When I realised all my friends my age had theirs I thought it was odd. When I saw on Twitter people in their 30s getting theirs I started to worry.

I made four calls to the national helpline, two calls to the health board helpline, filled in the missing appointment form and spoke to my GP. I got told to wait, to call back, that processing took up to two weeks. None of it was joined up, no one could tell me why this had happened or if my records had been found.

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Thankfully, I now have my appointment date, thanks to the various people I spoke to. As a whole, the process was needlessly confusing and I will be getting my vaccine almost a month after other people my age.

My personal circumstances do not amount to more than frustration but there is a wider issue.

Firstly, there are many who are missing appointments because of these sorts of errors; secondly there are those who don’t know how to navigate the system; finally those who get appointments they cannot attend because they are working. My mail bag is full of these issues, my situation was but one of them.

The vaccination has been an enormous effort and it is remarkable what has been achieved. But it is not going to be a one-off. There will be new variants, we will need boosters, this is just phase one of the vaccination programme.

So we need to understand why people have been missed off and we need a system where people know where to go and can track their records. Most importantly the need to be able to reschedule for a time and place that suits them.

I am thankful for my appointment. But the lesson from Glasgow is that we need to be ready for flare-ups, we need a system that works when we need to roll out boosters. If we don’t fix these issues, our summer of freedom could be short-lived.

Daniel Johnson is Scottish Labour & Co-op MSP for Edinburgh Southern

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