Edinburgh International Conference Centre set to become Covid vaccination centre

The flagship Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) is set to host the first roll out of the coronavirus vaccine in the capital.

By Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 1st December 2020, 6:19 pm
The EICC is set to play a major role in the rollout
The EICC is set to play a major role in the rollout

According to sources close to NHS Lothian’s board, the EICC is the favourite to win a contract with the health board to act as the main vaccination centre for the capital.

Depute leader of Edinburgh City Council, Cammy Day, did not confirm the EICC is the front runner, but said the centre is ‘being seriously considered’.

The Forth councillor said: “We are having ongoing discussions with Scottish government and NHS Lothian on suitable venues to host a central vaccine.

“The council’s International Conference Centre is one of those being seriously considered as a central accessible venue.”

The first vaccine to be administered in Edinburgh, which will go to NHS staff and key workers, is likely to be the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, which is due to be approved for use in the UK in the next few weeks.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnston told Sky News there ‘is hope’ that the vaccine, developed by German biotechnology company BioNTech and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, could be available for

administration before Christmas, along with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

The UK government has ordered 40m doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, which has so far been found to be 95 per cent effective in preventing disease.

The administration of the vaccine comes with its own set of unique logistical difficulties, which NHS Lothian will have to overcome to carry out a programme of injections in the capital.

The vaccine must be kept at minus 70 degrees celsius, and the health board will need to purchase refrigeration units capable of maintaining this temperature, and begin converting vehicles to be able to transport the vaccine.

Edinburgh City Council officials have also given an update on the capital’s vaccination plan.

At a meeting of the council’s policy and sustainability committee today, officers provided an update on the local authority’s adaptation and renewal programme.

The report reads: “The council is assessing its role within the future vaccine roll out as information becomes available.

“An Events Planning and Operations Group (EPOG) meeting covering all the Lothians was convened on Wednesday 25 November.

“All relevant agencies participated, and a programme of future meetings will be set up for the individual local authority areas.

“Participating agencies in the initial EPOG include NHS Lothian, local authorities (Edinburgh, Mid, East and West Lothian) and the emergency services.

“The local authority subgroups will have a more specific membership to focus on local issues, such as traffic management, and will include venue owners / managers.

“Not all venues have been decided at this time. These subgroups will report back to a smaller core group that will coordinate the Lothian wide response.”

At the meeting, the council’s chief executive Andrew Kerr was asked when a plan for the vaccine roll out would be published.

Mr Kerr told the committee: “This is a very fast moving feast of course, as the first phase of the vaccine roll out will be to a limited number of people, and each individual local authority does not have that information yet, but we’ll be getting that in the next week to ten days and we are ready to implement.

“Integrated joint board colleagues and local authority colleagues are just sitting down now and planning how we provide the facilities, provide the opportunities and what staffing implications there will be for each of those and we’re right in the middle of those discussions.”

David Small, Director of Primary Care Transformation, NHS Lothian, said: “NHS Lothian, along with colleagues across Scotland, is currently developing plans for mass vaccination as soon as possible when a vaccine becomes available. Venues for mass vaccination in Lothian are being considered.

"It is important to use venues that can cope with the large numbers involved, but also to provide broad access across Lothian and as soon as any decisions are taken and finalised, we will be able to announce and share them to provide some clarity and reassurance about the location of clinics and centres.”

Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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