Blame flares over Sturgeon’s slow vaccine rollout, but NHS Highland seem calmly in control

by Colin Campbell

THE vaccine rollout in Scotland is, according to statistics, clearly lagging behind England, Wales and Northern Ireland. And inevitably, given the rancorously divided country we have become, it has become a political issue, with accusations being hurled back and forth.

Nicola Sturgeon is primarily to blame for this. Throughout the past 10 months she has persistently made coronavirus a political issue, making comparisons – often invalid ones – between how the crisis is being handled here as opposed to south of the border.

Now her political rivals are scenting blood and piling in with accusations of failure directed at Sturgeon and the Scottish Government. Given their laggard performance, it’s wholly justified.

Without the foresight of the UK Government, Scotland might not yet have had any vaccine supplies.

Sturgeon was tasked with delivering them to the population, and is trailing behind England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Therefore, on an issue where, given its lifesaving importance, we might have hoped for a truce and some kind of unity and accord, she is rightly being held to account.

However, it was good to see the situation as it stands in the Highlands outlined clearly and concisely by NHS Highland, who seem firmly in control.

NHS Highland say: “The Covid-19 vaccination programme continues across Highland, Argyll and Bute with 42,755 first dose vaccinations having now been completed (as of January 31). All care home residents, aside from those homes who currently have a COVID-19 outbreak, have been offered their first COVID-19 vaccination with figures showing a 90% uptake rate.

Nicola Sturgeon…under fire for slow vaccine rolllout elsewhere.

“GP colleagues, who will be vaccinating the majority of the public, have completed nearly 85% of the over 80s group, meeting the target with several days to spare.”

Dr Paul Davidson, Deputy Medical Director for NHS Highland, said: “We are delivering the vaccination across a large and challenging geography, during winter, while simultaneously coordinating variable supply of vaccine products. The challenge really cannot be underestimated but is it thanks to all the staff involved with this programme and the tremendous effort they have put in that we have been able to deliver the vaccine to, as it stands now, 13% of our population.

“Given our remote and rural geography, the majority of the delivery of vaccine to the public will be coordinated by our GP practices, who are ideally located and experienced to do this, given they support our flu delivery programme so well every year.  We will, along with Highland and Argyll and Bute Councils, provide any additional resources and support that they need to do this successfully.

“For our staff in more remote and rural areas the vaccination is being coordinated by local teams. In Inverness we are currently using the Centre for Health Science as a location for larger scale delivery.”

There is surely no room for dispute or disagreement in anything Dr Davidson says. It is a massive exercise covering a huge land mass and the work being undertaken, particularly in remote areas, will have been made even more challenging due to the severe winter weather.

The vaccination figure of 13 per cent of the population still leaves a long way to go but it’s still only early February and over the next three months as the effort becomes more streamlined, it seems very likely that by the end of April everyone over 50 will have received their first dose. Infection rates will have dropped dramatically and hopes will have risen that by summer we can  begin to get slowly back to normal.

The difficulties elsewhere seem set to continue. But as explained very clearly by Dr Davidson, NHS Highland seem to be broadly on top of the situation.

We’ve been fortunate in the relatively low number of infections here over the past 11 months, and now there appears to be an acceptably smooth rollout of the vaccine across the region too.

The prospects are promising. Just as long as they manage to keep Nicola Sturgeon out of it.


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