Covid in Scotland: Food bank volunteers get vaccine before over 80s

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Volunteers at a food bank in Midlothian have said they have received Covid vaccinations - ahead of the majority of those over the age of 80.

On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon said 34% of over 80s had received their first dose.

Mark Wells, manager of the Food Facts Friends food bank in Penicuik, said he and six volunteers had received jabs in the past week.

NHS Lothian said it had not received detailed guidance on what counts as a priority health and social care worker.

A spokesperson for the health board said health and social care workers who work with the very vulnerable were eligible for vaccination at this stage.

This group can include those who work in the voluntary sector - with workers able to book vaccines "on a self-triage basis".

The spokesperson added: "At present, we do not have further or more detailed national guidance to help quantify what is meant by priority health and social care workers."

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image captionNHS Lothian said patient-facing staff should be vaccinated

NHS Lothian said it can be "more prescriptive" within the the health board, and only encourage staff who are eligible - for example because they are patient-facing - to book appointments.

They added that individuals who are not currently volunteering, or do not have interaction with the very vulnerable, may choose to wait until they are eligible as part of the mass vaccination programme.

Phil Doggart, a Scottish Conservative councillor on City of Edinburgh Council, said: "There is frustration among residents that family members, particularly in care homes, have not been vaccinated while the vaccine roll out to others appears to be testing the definitions of the priority groupings."

About 95% of care home residents and 77% of staff have now had the vaccine, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the daily coronavirus briefing on Friday.

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image captionSome care home residents are still to be vaccinated

Pauline Winchester, a Scottish Conservative councillor on Midlothian Council, said booking vaccines "should be policed at either the telephone stage or the vaccination stage".

She added: "One volunteer told them that he was indeed a volunteer who worked in a foodbank - and was still told that he is eligible.

"It appears that anyone who has the relevant freephone number and calls will get an appointment for the Covid vaccination."

She added: "Scotland is well behind the rest of the UK for vaccinations of over 80 years old."

Scotland's latest official vaccination figures, published on Wednesday, showed that 13% of the 80-and-over age group had received their first dose by last weekend.

However on Friday, Nicola Sturgeon said this figure had increased to more than a third of over 80s.

The figure for England, published on Thursday, reported that 56.3% of the 80 and over age group had been vaccinated.

Cllr Winchester added: "If there are spaces, which there plainly are, then why are others, such as the police, not now being called forward?

"On the one hand we are hearing from the Scottish government that there aren't enough vaccine doses and then on the other we have a system whereby anyone can call, make an appointment and get a vaccination."

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We fully expect NHS Scotland health boards to work within the nationally agreed prioritisation schedule to manage the distribution of vaccine supplies, which remain limited at this time, to those on the JCVI prioritisation list, which is very clear and includes patient-facing NHS and social care staff providing direct care.

"Guidance on JCVI prioritisation was provided to all boards in a letter from the chief medical officer on 4 December and is additionally published in our vaccine deployment plan, and we expect any board which requires further clarification to seek that from the national vaccination team."

Meanwhile on Saturday, more than 5,000 health and social care staff are receiving vaccines at the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital as part of a mass vaccination drive by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Across 65 vaccination stations, 500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine can be delivered per hour at the site.

Vaccinations are scheduled to continue until 19:30 on Saturday.

On Wednesday, official figures said 137,005 healthcare workers and 19,482 social care workers had already received their first injection.