Exclusive: Two-thirds of people in NHS Lothian area have been given the Covid-19 vaccine
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Since the first injection was given in Lothian six months ago, 643,946 people have received their first dose with 207,615 having received both doses of the lifesaving jab.
The most recently available official statics say the region has a total population of 907,580 – meaning more than three-quarters of residents have received the vaccine.
The healthcare board’s staff vaccination programme is now complete meaning that all frontline workers have had their second dose, giving them greater protection while they work.
Care home residents across Lothian have also been given two doses of the vaccine ensuring they have the maximum amount of protection possible.
Second dose appointments are also underway for the housebound and the over 80s, as well as the clinically extremely vulnerable and the over 75s.
Having successfully vaccinated nearly all of Lothian’s most at-risk people, staff are now set to begin vaccinating cohort 10, meaning that all 40-49-year-olds will receive their appointments soon.
More than 120,000 people will be offered an appointment as part of this next group in line with JCVI guidance, which requires boards to move sequentially down through the age groups.
Director of Nursing for Primary and Community Care at NHS Lothian Pat Wynne said that the programme will ramp up between now and the end of the month with the number of vaccinations each week more than trebling from 5,000 to 18,000 to meet the needs of Lothian’s uniquely younger population mix.
Mr Wynne said: “The last 12 months have been exceptional, but so have our staff and our patients and they have stuck with the restrictions, even during the hardest of times, to allow our vaccination teams the time to begin delivering the vital vaccine that will help us all begin to return to normal.
“We have come a long way in a really short period of time and I’m so proud of all of our teams who have pulled together so quickly to save lives.”
Despite the programme’s success, the health board has faced criticism for it’s consistently poor performance on Public Health Scotland’s league table.
The four local authority areas covered by NHS Lothian – Edinburgh, West Lothian, Midlothian and East Lothian – have routinely had the worst vaccine rates in the country, with the Capital in particular regularly featuring at the foot of the table.
But Mr Wynne is keen to stress that this low ranking is not due to the health board’s slow process but rather due to the uniquely young population in Lothian.
He said: “Lothian has quite a unique population – it is younger and more transient than anywhere else in Scotland. In fact, it has meant that Lothian has often been said to be further behind other areas in Scotland in terms of vaccination rates.
“NHS Lothian’s programme is not slower other regions in the country. Public Health Scotland publishes a ‘league table’ each week which shows our ranking as low when compared to other Boards. It is easy to misinterpret.
“That ranking is based on the percentage of the population as a whole in each Board area that has been vaccinated. If the table were based on the percentage of the population who were eligible for vaccination at any one time, the table would show that NHS Lothian’s performance has been very high and compares extremely favourably to the rest of Scotland.
“This is because Lothian has a lower percentage of older people in its overall population than other areas. Since the vaccination programme started with older age groups, the portion of the population eligible for vaccination in Lothian up until now, has been lower than in most other areas.
“As we move through the younger age groups, which contain the majority of our population, we will begin to see a shift in these numbers and greater parity among the regions.
“The numbers of vaccinations delivered every week will really ramp up as we move through the younger age groups, because we have more people who are eligible for the vaccine.”
Lothian’s vaccination teams, which are made up of trained healthcare workers, many of whom have come out of retirement to volunteer in this role, have been praised for their professionalism and ability.
Each of Lothian’s six mass and smaller vaccination centres received 100 per cent positive feedback in the most recent patient experience survey.
However, the vaccine programme faced further criticism this month after it was reported that 30,000 vaccination appointments had been missed since NHS Lothian set up mass vaccination centres.
In March, 22,106 of the 140,190 scheduled appointments were missed by patients – more than one in every seven appointments.
In the same month, NHS Lothian, Royal Mail, the National Delivery Programme and NHS National Services Scotland published a joint apology after a number of vaccines were unable to take place due to delays in patients receiving their vaccine appointments via post.
The apology came after some vaccination centres in the Lothians saw “literally no patients” on Monday, March 15, and Tuesday, March 16, due to the communications delay, with staff told to try and find members of the public or police officers to take the leftover jags.
Mr Wynne stressed that the situation was not within the control of NHS Lothian, but apologised for the inconvenience caused to its patients and added that teams worked quickly to resolve the problem.
He also pointed out that all affected patients were given a new appointment within days.
Mr Wynne added: “As frustrating as it was for us all, especially our patients, this is a system we have set up nationally in a year and there have been teething issues from that.
“I want people to be assured that every day we receive and review all the information that is coming to us and we change.
“I have never worked on anything in my 34-years with the NHS that has been as flexible and responsive as this programme.”
Anyone with concerns about their vaccine appointment should call :
National Covid Vaccination Helpline - 0800 030 8013
NHS Lothian Covid Vaccination Helpline - 0300 790 6296
You can also contact NHS Lothian's vaccination team via email on [email protected]
Full information is avalailable at: https://www.nhslothian.scot/Coronavirus/Vaccine/Pages/Appointments.aspx