Vaccine rollout to start on Arran later this month

A patient receiving the vaccine on the mainland.

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Clinics giving residents the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will start on Arran later this month.

Arran Medical Group says it is working hard with NHS Ayrshire and Arran to roll out the next phase of the vaccination programme with priority given to those over 80 years of age.

It is hoped to start these mid to end of January depending on vaccine delivery and a spokesman said: ‘We will be in touch with patients directly, by either phone or letter, to organise appointments. Following our successful flu sessions, we hope, again, to provide localised clinics for these vaccinations.’ This is expected to include Arran High School.

‘As we are still working with limited phone lines and staffing due to social distancing, please can we ask patients to wait for contact from our team,’ the statement added.

The first vaccinations took place on Arran over the last days of 2020. This involved delivering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to care home residents in Montrose House and Corriedoon, health and social care staff and a small number of the most vulnerable patients.

It is still unclear what will now happen with the second jab for which a number of appointments have already been made, following the decision to delay these for 12 weeks to allow more people to get the vaccine.

The moves come as Arran joined the rest of mainland Scotland in its second national lockdown with people being told to ‘stay at home’ until at least the end of January and schools to stay shut.

And there are increasing fears that the lockdown could last longer with many in the tourism trade on Arran predicting it will be Easter, at the earliest, before there will be a return of any meaningful trade.

However, even with the accelerated roll-out of the vaccine First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given the ‘cautious prediction’ that it will be the start of May before everyone over 50 and younger people with underlying health conditions will have had the jab.

And while many businesses on the island are now closed, a number of shops and suppliers are offering goods and services online and a number of cafes, restaurants and hotels are offering takeaways. Essential shops remain open. See page 10.

And while the island remains relatively Covid-free, with just a handful of cases, the situation in mainland North Ayrshire remains among the worst in Scotland with hospitals in Ayrshire and Arran at 96 per cent of their Covid capacity.

Of the 1,174 people in hospital with coronavirus on New Year’s Eve NHS Ayrshire and Arran had 162 of their 169 coronavirus beds filled.

The first minister said this week the situation with the sharp rise in cases of Covid-19 was ‘very serious’, with around half attributed to the new fast-spreading variant.

Ms Sturgeon said she feared the new strain was ‘winning the race’ against the roll-out of the vaccination programme. ‘We must slow the virus down because it is spreading faster. Tougher restrictions are necessary,’ she said.

There have been calls for restrictions to be eased on Arran because of the low number of cases, but this seems unlikely given the situation in the rest of North Ayrshire. Bute, Skye and Gigha are the other islands with the toughest restrictions.

Scottish business groups have broadly welcomed newly-announced funding support aimed at helping firms stay afloat during the latest lockdown, which includes one-off grants of up to £9,000 for retail and hospitality businesses, depending on their size.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed this week a £4.6bn UK-wide funding package to help firms forced to close as a result of the new restrictions. The Scottish government, however, insisted it was not new money.

Scotland was initially expected to get £375m under the scheme. However, it said it later learned the funding was part of cash already guaranteed by the UK government to the devolved administrations under the Barnett Formula, which is expected to total £8.6bn for Scotland in this financial year.

Welcoming the additional business support for Arran, West Scotland MSP Jamie Greene said: ‘The UK government has provided unprecedented support for Scotland and Arran to help us get through the pandemic and this announcement of additional funding is more than welcome.

‘Support has included the Job Retention Scheme, cuts to VAT, grants for the self-employed and the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, which has helped workers and businesses across our community at a time of massive uncertainty.

‘At the start of the pandemic, when the chancellor said he was going to do all he could to support Scotland, he really meant it and he has delivered for the people of Scotland.’

University Hospital Crosshouse