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Vaccine supply problems in Caithness


By Jean Gunn

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Concern expressed about scaling down of Pzifer vaccine supplies.
Concern expressed about scaling down of Pzifer vaccine supplies.

A LOCAL doctor has expressed concern about the lack of supply of new Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines to the county.

"I do not know when we will be getting any more vaccine," said Dr Alison Brooks, of the Thurso and Halkirk Medical Practice. "We are certainly not down to get anything in the next fortnight. The Scottish Government has said they are not giving any more Pfizer out apart from the second doses."

The local practice had just run the second of its large clinics at Thurso High School last Saturday, vaccinating just under 900 people.

Dr Brooks explained that following the clinic she had been speaking to North MP Jamie Stone about how well the vaccine programme had been going in Caithness only to find out on Thursday afternoon that no more supplies were in the pipeline.

Another clinic in the high school games hall was planned for March 13, but the doctor is unsure whether this will go ahead. However, supplies for those in the 80 or over age group due to get their second doses on April 3 will not be affected.

What Dr Brooks finds difficult to understand is that her colleagues in England are much further on with their vaccine programmes and are not experiencing the same supply issues. "They seem to be a month ahead of us," she said.

A vaccination table by council area, published on the Scotland Coronavirus Tracker page, showing Highland clearly at the end of the line.
A vaccination table by council area, published on the Scotland Coronavirus Tracker page, showing Highland clearly at the end of the line.

She felt the area was getting less than expected and questioned whether supplies were being redirected to other places.

"It has been going great, as soon as practices are getting the vaccine they are getting it out – it is just the availability now," pointed out Dr Brooks.

Originally she had been told that as long as they used the Pfizer for the clinics they would get big batches of the vaccine.

While understanding that the drug company's plan was to scale down the supply for the next few weeks due to expansion work to boost production, she felt that would be just a short-term measure.

"I think people were starting to get really enthusiastic and now it is scaling down again," she said.

Dr Brooks also fears that problems might be caused for those unable to attend for their second injections at the clinic on April 3, following an 11-week interval from the first dose. "It is a logistical nightmare for the practice managers," she added.

The doctor has contacted the Scottish Government to see if she can get any more answers about the delay.

Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, Jamie Stone, has expressed concern about the availability of the Pfizer vaccine in Caithness.
Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, Jamie Stone, has expressed concern about the availability of the Pfizer vaccine in Caithness.

North MP Jamie Stone said: "I am astounded by this revelation. It is imperative that we get the maximum number of people vaccinated in the shortest possible time and despite assurances from the Scottish Government that this is happening it appears that the Far North is being hugely disadvantaged.

"There is no way that a remote part of Scotland should be simply disadvantaged because of where it is and there is no way the Far North of Scotland should be disadvantaged to the rest of the UK.

"The virus recognises no borders or boundaries and for that reason we need an explanation of what is happening here right now and the situation needs to be sorted out as a matter of extreme importance."

Earlier this week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stated that Scotland's vaccination programme had slowed down due to supply problems with Pfizer changing the phasing of the delivery.

She said that there would be slightly less supply than originally expected over the next few weeks.

Related article: Drifting snow fails to stop uptake of vaccine in Thurso


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