Pre-match mobile vaccine clinics target Hearts and Hibs fans
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In a fresh bid to boost take-up NHS Lothian is launching a campaign to vaccinate outside clubs starting on Tuesday at Easter Road.
It comes as the latest figures show Midlothian, East Lothian and the City of Edinburgh recorded some of the highest rates of Covid-19 in Scotland this week, while numbers appeared to stabilise after a surge in recent weeks.
A total of 482 new cases of covid-19 were reported in the NHS Lothian health board area up to July 11, just days before Nicola Sturgeon is due to confirm the move to level zero of the government’s national restrictions.
Tartan army fans were blamed by public health experts for spreading the virus and causing Scotland’s recent spike in cases when they travelled to London for the Euros match against England.
But health chiefs have stressed that clubs in the Lothians are “doing all they can to be responsible”.
Hibs expressed disappointment after their bid to increase fan numbers for the upcoming friendly against Arsenal was rejected by the Scottish Government. The match will see 2,000 fans attend the 20,000-capacity stadium.
A team of four vaccinators will staff the repurposed unit, originally used for blood donations, outside the East stand off Albion Road from 2pm offering jags for four hours in the run up to kick off.
The mobile unit which recently visited shopping centres in Edinburgh and West Lothian will also go to Tynecastle and Livingston over the next two weeks.
Pat Wynne, the head of NHS Lothian vaccination programme, said: “At this stage we are maximising the chances to get out and closer to people in communities.
"We saw football as the ideal opportunity for this but we are also looking at other possibilities. Football has been linked with the spread of the virus and no doubt has had a role in the spread. But I believe clubs in Lothians are doing all they can to be responsible. It’s a hard balance because people want their life back but we have to be careful to gradually build up and all take collective responsibility for society as a whole.”
"The unit is for football fans but is also open to anyone in the area. While vaccine take up has been much lower in the under 39s we’ve heard a number of reasons for this and our wider strategy is all about addressing these. The city has a transient population with many students and we will be targeted universities in August.
"But people said they also found it challenging to get the time off work and for some finding money to travel has been a factor. Since we started drop in five weeks ago it is definitely making a difference to the vaccination rates. On our best day last week at the Fort shopping centre we delivered 550 vaccines.
"My hopes are high for the drop-in and take up has been good so far. Drop in will continue right up to September when we will be looking to start our booster campaign. What we learn from tomorrow will inform how we roll these out in future for sports and other community events.