Arran gears up for mass vaccination programme

A general fear of needles affects 20 percent of the population and around 10 per cent have a phobia, says Michelle Wakerell

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Health services on Arran are gearing up for what will be the biggest mass vaccination programme the island has ever seen, which will start next weekend.

Arran Medical Group has secured an initial quota of Pfizer -BioNTech Covid-19 vaccinations to allow health staff to vaccinate the island’s 70 years and above patient group.

This differs from the mainland by John Burns, chief executive, NHS Ayrshire & Arran explained: ‘We have made the decision to vaccinate over 70s on Arran, along with those aged over 80, at this time too. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine can only be transported for a short period of time once it has been thawed, and so we have made this decision in order to minimise waste and simplify the logistical challenges of vaccinating priority groups on Arran.’

The Pfizer vaccine is different to a typical vaccine and has a very short viability period once defrosted. In addition, patients have to wait 15 minutes post vaccine, two metres apart from each other. For these reasons, the sessions will be held at Arran High School only. They will take place over the weekend starting Friday January  22 through to Monday January 25.

Patients will be contacted by telephone with an appointment, which may be from a 01292 or mobile telephone number, but are being asked not the phone the practice themselves.

For shielding patients, guidelines will be followed to ensure a Covid safe environment, so they are able to attend. Housebound patients will be contacted in the near future to organise vaccinations.

As reported in the Banner last week, the first vaccinations took place on Arran during the last days of 2o2o with care home residents, health and social care staff and a small number of the most vulnerable patients receiving the jab.

However, the health authorities on the mainland are reluctant to say how vaccination rollout is progressing on the island with NHS Ayrshire and Arran telling the Banner: ‘The way in which the data regarding vaccinations is collated means we are unable to provide the numbers you have requested specifically for residents living on Arran.’

But the health board insist: ‘Our Covid-19 vaccination programme is well under way and local teams are working through vaccinating the priority groups as set out in the national guidance. From this week, NHS Ayrshire and Arran will begin rolling out first doses of the recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to patients who are aged 80 or over living in the community. GP practices will be in touch with those eligible for vaccine directly, inviting them to come for their first dose over the course of the coming weeks.’

NHS Ayrshire and Arran chief executive John Burns added: ‘We recognise that people across Ayrshire and Arran are keen to know when they will receive their vaccinations. Right across the health and social care system, our staff are working tirelessly to make sure that we can deliver the vaccine to each of the relevant groups when they are due to receive it. This is a huge task and we ask the public to be patient with this process.

‘I want to reassure everyone that we will offer the vaccinations in a systematic way, as supply of vaccine allows, to ensure that those who are most vulnerable are prioritised.’

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on Arran remains very low, according to Scottish government statistics. Since the start of the year the number recorded for Arran has remained 0-2, although this figure is suppressed, due to patient confidentiality.

However, it is a very different story on the mainland where NHS Ayrshire and Arran are still recording some of the highest rates in Scotland.

There are nearly 200 people battling the disease in hospitals in the area with around 10 people are in intensive care and several more deaths this week.