Concerns raised over vaccine deployment to Scotland’s care homes

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Care homes will not receive the first batch of the Pfizer vaccine due to problems transporting small doses around the country.

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, confirmed 65,500 doses of the covid vaccine will arrive in Scotland by next Tuesday, where they will initially be stored in freezers in packs of 997 doses.

There were concerns the vaccine could not be transferred, however Freeman confirmed the vaccine can be transported and stored, meaning it will now be possible to deliver them to care homes.

Freeman said on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme that care homes would have to wait until the issue of breaking down the vaccine packs into smaller doses is resolved.

“The doses come to us in packs of 997 and we need to know to what degree we can pack that down into smaller pack sizes.

“If we can’t, then we absolutely need to bring those who need to ve vaccinated to those freezersv – to those centres – because there is a limit to how much you can transport the doses once you have defrosted them.

“We don’t want to waste any of this vaccine so it’s not possible at this point to take it in smaller doses into, for example, care homes.”

The health secretary had said talks were underway with Pfizer and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to try and find a solution to the storage issue.

As for Tuesday, Freeman said “the intention is that we would start by vaccinating those who will be vaccinating others and we will bring them to where we are storing the doses.” The process will then move onto frontline health and social care workers.

Freeman addressed Holyrood earlier telling MSPs it had now been resolved that the vaccine could be transported in an unfrozen state for up to 12 hours.

The vaccine can be broken down into smaller pack sizes and stored undiluted for up to five days.

“So in effect we can take the vaccine to them [care homes] or close to them, and we will begin that exercise from 14 December,” the health secretary said.

The UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with the MHRA saying the vaccine is safe to roll out, and immunisations for people in priority groups is expected to start within the next few days.

This vaccine offers up to 95 per cent protection against the coronavirus illness.

About 800,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to be available in the UK next week, with 8.2 per cent being shared to Scotland.

Freeman confirmed that 23 secured ultra-low temperature freezers will be based at all major acute hospitals across the country in order to store the vaccine.

As for the current deployment issues, the health secretary said she hopes the future approval of vaccines would help solve the issue – including the Oxford vaccine as it does not require the same cold storage.

Freeman added she hoped the first round of the vaccination programme will be completed by the spring.

Feature Image credit: – John Cairns/ University of Oxford

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