The roll-out of the coronavirus vaccines in Scotland is still too “patchy”, one of the country’s top GPs has warned.
Blairgowrie-based chairman of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, Dr Andrew Buist, warned not enough doses were being distributed to surgeries and health centres in Scotland.
Dr Buist highlighted the “good progress” made in vaccinating the initial target group of care home residents and staff, but warned the supply of doses varied, which would have an impact on the next groups of patients set to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.
Speaking on Politics Scotland, Dr Buist said: “The covid vaccine deployment plan is ambitious and rightly so.
“I think we have made good progress with our top priority group, which is care home residents and staff.
“The current problem lies with the next priority group – 80 plus – because the supply has been quite patchy.
“Some GP practices have a good supply, some have had none so far.”
‘We need to do something to ensure we’ve done everything to supply the vaccine to practices’
The Ardblair medic continued: “Yes (GPs can do more), but key to that is access to the vaccine.
“My practice has had 100 doses so far to do 600 people aged over 80.
“We then have to do another 1,200 patients in the 70-plus and clinically vulnerable group by the middle of February.
“We need to do 1,700 vaccines in the next four weeks.
“We can do that, we are used to giving out the flu vaccine every year and we have our workforce in place. But we need the vaccine, otherwise we can’t do it.
“We cannot send out appointments to patients until we can guarantee we have the vaccine in our fridge.
“We don’t want to send out appointments to patients unless we know we can definitely vaccinate them, otherwise patients get upset and distressed and anxious, quite rightly.
“We need to do something to ensure we’ve done everything to supply the vaccine to practices.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “GPs have a significant role to play in delivering the vaccine – and we thank them for their hard work and patience as we roll out more vaccines to those in the communities. We know there have been some initial delays in supply reaching some practices and are working with Health Boards to resolve this. Vaccines are being manufactured as quickly as possible and we will continue to explore all options available to increase supply
“Health Boards provide order information for their GP practices to National Procurement who in turn advise the distribution partner. Once stock is released for ordering, the distribution partner inputs the GP orders on to their ordering system. Once the order has been placed, GP Practices will receive an automated email providing an indication of the delivery day.
“We too want to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible and are continually working hard to see if distribution can be made faster in any respect.”
‘There’s a long way to go, but significant progress made so far.’
NHS Grampian head of health intelligence, Jillian Evans, said: “The pace we have been able to implement the vaccine has been quite staggering.
“With plans to ramp up four times the size of my own local area which will take place in mass vaccination centres. There’s a long way to go, but significant progress made so far.
“Two challenges faced, first is the appointment of staff and second the availability of supply. It is a little patchy, a little unpredictable and short term which makes planning very tricky.
“That will become an issue as we scale up to move forward in February.
“So far the uptake has been very high.
“It would appear the population would be amenable to ramping up which would involve 24 hours (vaccination).
“It is not beyond realms of possibility.”