Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain MSP is calling on the Scottish Government to urgently distribute supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the remotest parts of the Highlands & Islands to ensure the over-80s group all receive their first dose by the end of the first week of February.
The call was made after the Deputy First Minister stated that there are “challenges” in distributing the Pfizer vaccine to remote communities due to its large batch size of 1,000. The Deputy First Minister confirmed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine comes in smaller batches of 80 to 100.
Edward Mountain MSP raised the issue of the need to speed-up the delivery of the vaccine to the over-80s group during the Deputy First Minister’s Covid-19 Statement today.
Edward Mountain MSP asked:
“First Minister, in remote Highland communities, vaccination of the over 80s is patchy. I am hearing of some GPs who will only receive their first batch vaccine for this group this week, making the original target of vaccinating them by the end of January unachievable.
“Can you confirm that the revised target for completing the vaccination of the 80 plus group by the 6th February will indeed be met in the Highlands and Islands - the GPs are not convinced - and if not, what additional support the Scottish Government will provide to speed-up the vaccine rollout in across my region?”
The Deputy First Minister replied:
“Obviously when we get to some of the more remote communities that will be part of the Highland and Islands area, there will be challenges because of the, quite literally, batch sizes of the vaccine that will come in. The batch size for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 80 or a 100. The Pfizer vaccine is much closer to a 1,000. So obviously there are constraints about the opportunities to utilise the different versions of the vaccine in different parts of the community.
“What I can assure Mr Mountain about is that very good progress is being made by NHS Highland in the distribution of the vaccine and we are confident that the targets we have set of completing this exercise by the end of the first week in February for over 80s will be met. The supplies, we believe, are available to ensure that is the case and I know that General Practitioners are wholly committed to ensuring this can be done with the timescale that has been set out.”
Following First Minister’s Questions, Edward Mountain MSP commented:
“One size does not fit all and it is clear that the Highlands has very different needs compared to the Central Belt when it comes to the vaccine rollout.
“We are fortunate to have a number of vaccine options at our disposal. The Scottish Government should distribute the Oxford-AstraZeneca version, which comes in smaller batches, to remote communities in the Highlands that require a smaller number of doses.”