Highland health chiefs hope to complete the first wave of coronavirus vaccinations in the next 18 days – despite “some delays” in rural areas.
Dr Tim Allison, director of public health at NHS Highland, said 18,000 vaccines had already been delivered in the region, including to one third of over-80s and most care home staff and residents.
He told MSPs there had been “variable” progress with the roll out but that he expects everyone in the top-priority group to have been immunised by February 5 or 6.
Giving evidence to Holyrood’s health committee on Tuesday morning, Dr Allison said he anticipates that care home vaccinations in the region will be completed by the end of this week, except in facilities where there are current Covid-19 outbreaks.
“The latest figures that we estimate for vaccinations are around 18,000 across the whole of NHS Highland, which means that we reckon we have reached about a third of over-80s, and in two out of our three localities we have vaccinated, or offered vaccinations to, all care home residents and staff,” he said.
“We are well through the patient-facing staff. Some GPs have pretty well completed their vaccination of over-80s, and some GPs are still getting the vaccine.
“But we anticipate that we will have vaccinated all of the initial cohort by the first week in February.
“The progress has been variable I think across the area, but overall I believe we are making good progress.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last week that the impact of the pandemic in the Highlands was now “serious and severe”, with a recent rise in cases having been driven by a new strain of the coronavirus.
Dr Allison said all care home staff and residents in north and west Highland, as well as Argyll and Bute, had now been vaccinated, with the south and central Highlands to be completed later this week, with the exception of care homes hit by current outbreaks, such as two facilities in Invergordon.
“While we have been able to do some vaccination within there, we can’t comprehensively vaccinate the care homes because it is not advisable or feasible in the middle of outbreaks, but we will complete that vaccination as soon as we can,” he said.
Pressed on issues with transporting the vaccine to some parts of the region, Dr Allison said: “In terms of getting vaccine out to rural areas, there have been some delays, that is correct, in terms of getting the vaccine out.”
However, Dr Allison added that the delays were generally of a “couple of days”, and the health board is working with all parties involved to minimise the difficulties.