Amid Covid booster vaccine chaos, Royal Highland Showground was an oasis of calm efficiency – John McLellan

Vaccine centres which aren’t open, residents being sent to centres which turn out to be for NHS staff only, car-less elderly couples being sent across the city to different locations – the stories revealed in yesterday’s Evening News tell of unacceptable chaos in the booster programme.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 4:55 am
The Covid vaccination centre at the Royal Highland Showground was working well when John McLellan visited on Sunday morning (Picture: Andrew Milligan/pool/Getty Images)
The Covid vaccination centre at the Royal Highland Showground was working well when John McLellan visited on Sunday morning (Picture: Andrew Milligan/pool/Getty Images)

However, my experience was somewhat different. OK, so an 8.55am appointment on a Sunday at Ingliston wasn’t the most convenient, but I have a car and late Saturday nights are ancient history.

Obviously parking isn’t an issue at the Royal Highland Showground, and stewards were on hand to direct drivers. A trickle of people were emerging from the Lowland Hall still clutching their appointment letters as I entered the vast barn to be directed to lines of empty chairs behind a dozen registration desks.

With no queue, I was directed straight to a teller and after giving a few brief details was shown to the vaccination waiting area, which was the same lines of empty waiting chairs in front of what seemed like scores of vaccination booths, each with its own nurse.

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Again, no waiting, instead called over by a very pleasant nurse called Sam who very efficiently gave me my flu and booster jabs and had time for a very brief chat about the rugby later that day, then off I went to the waiting area for the 15-minute rest. The wait at the end apart, the whole thing can’t have taken more than 15 minutes, so I was back in the car in less than half an hour.

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So the issue was not chaos but capacity. OK, so first thing on a Sunday might not be the most representative experience, but scores of health staff and an army of hi-viz jacketed stewards were being paid to be there and while it was all very civilised, it was clear there was the capacity to take many more people without placing additional stress on staff or causing significant delay.

Nobody minds waiting 20 minutes or so when at the end of it is something which might save your life and help save others, but people have every reason to be aggrieved if they wait in in vain in the rain outside a locked clinic or are sent to the wrong place. Had those people been sent to Ingliston on Sunday morning, it might have been a hassle to get there, but they would have been in and out.

Maybe a free hopper bus could have whisked them from the tram and airport bus terminus to the vaccine centre to make the experience all the more smooth.

For the most vulnerable and incapacitated, it’s also difficult to understand why the previous system of vaccine appointments at the local GP has been discontinued, where familiar faces and locations made the process much less stressful for those older people used to a routine.

As for my inconvenience, that was something different. I was able to nip into B&Q on the way home to buy a now obligatory heat alarm to match up with the obligatory smoke alarms and the obligatory carbon monoxide detector so we don’t break the law when it’s enacted in February.

The long arm of the state is getting longer, but I should be grateful the Scottish government is determined to keep me alive.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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