Covid: Edinburgh has lowest vaccination rate in Scotland and yet vaccinators are being sent home early – Ian Murray MP

In the coming days we’ll pass the major milestone of two million vaccinations in Scotland.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 7:00 am

The heroic efforts of all involved – from the researchers in Britain who developed one of the vaccines to those manufacturing, delivering and administering it – are charting a course for us out of the pandemic. Thank you.

New Covid cases and hospital admissions are falling, paving the way for a relaxation of restrictions, easing the pressure on over-worked NHS staff, and providing hope.

But I’m increasingly concerned about the situation in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

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There are national issues with vaccine supply fluctuations, but that doesn’t explain why our region is languishing at the bottom of the vaccination league table.

The latest figures show there is just 33.8 per cent coverage by first dose in NHS Lothian, compared to over 36 per cent in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, nearly 42 per cent in Lanarkshire and more than 44 per cent in Tayside.

In Edinburgh itself, the 30.4 per cent rate is the lowest in Scotland.

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A member of the vaccine team prepares a syringe with a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine at an NHS Scotland vaccination centre set up at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. (Picture: Jane Barlow/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Demographics are a small part of the explanation, but the performance is simply not good enough, despite the best efforts of all those hard-working vaccinators.

NHS Lothian chiefs have repeatedly assured me that everything is proceeding smoothly but there are some supply problems. Well, if it is a supply issue why isn’t our city getting its fair share?

But that certainly doesn’t tie-up with my email inbox.

I’m still being contacted by concerned residents who believe they should have received their jag appointment. They are seeing friends and family receiving it in other areas of Scotland and the UK.

Worryingly, I’ve also been contacted by vaccinators in Edinburgh about the delays.

They say they could easily vaccinate twice the number of people they are doing every day and improve the city’s position.

They have spoken of fridges full of vaccines, but not enough people being invited to receive the doses, so they are being sent home.

This needs to be urgently addressed by the Scottish government.

Across Scotland, we were too slow with vaccine uptake at the start of the roll-out, and while we have now caught up with the rest of the UK, Edinburgh cannot be left behind.

The First Minister spoke yesterday about returning to the levels system in April. Before Christmas there was a great deal of local anger when Edinburgh was kept in level three despite recording level-two infection rates, hurting the hospitality trade and other industries at a vital time of year.

If we end up in a situation where Edinburgh is once again kept at a high level, this time because the vaccine programme is slower than the rest of Scotland, that would be devastating.

We need to see a dramatic uptick in coverage, and we should also be prioritising frontline workers such as police officers and teachers, especially with the looming return of school pupils.

The government must not take its eye off the ball. The SNP may be gripped by internal divisions, but it would be unforgivable if ministers made the conscious decision to return to the old arguments about independence in the vital weeks ahead.

Instead, the priority must be recovery from Covid, bringing our communities together and rebuilding our nation.

Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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