Scotland’s medical staff to support Oxford vaccine rollout

Laboratory scientist / technician handling blood samples from coronavirus vaccine trials inside Oxford University's Jenner Institute on June 25, 2020

image copyrightOxford University/John Cairns

image captionThe Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has now been approved by UK regulators

Medical staff will be pulled from various roles across the Scottish health service to support the rollout of the newly-approved Oxford vaccine.

Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, said staff were being recruited to deliver the jab “at pace and at scale”.

The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the new vaccine – enough for 50 million people.

The first Scots are likely to receive it within the next fortnight.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is the second jab to be approved in the UK after one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech was given the go-ahead earlier this month.

The vaccine has been developed at a pace that would have been unthinkable before the pandemic.

  • Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in UK

  • What is the Oxford vaccine?
  • When will I be vaccinated against Covid?

It was designed in the first months of 2020, tested on the first volunteer in April, and has since been through large-scale clinical trials involving thousands of people.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the country has ordered enough of the two vaccines combined to cover the entire population.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that the approval of the vaccine was “much needed good news”.

She added: “We’ve still got some difficult winter weeks ahead but the light at the end of the tunnel just got a lot brighter. Let’s stick with it now – Spring will bring better times.”

image captionTwo full doses of the Oxford vaccine gave 62% protection, a half dose followed by a full dose was 90% and overall the trial showed 70% protection.

Ms Evans said the next challenge will be recruiting enough staff to deliver the vaccine as quickly as possible.

“Many of our staff who work in different parts of the hospital and different parts of our community care and services will be supporting the vaccination,” she told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

“We’ll be recruiting volunteers who can support the management of it – not deliver the vaccinations themselves, but support the administration.”

Strategy shift

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will lead to a significant increase in vaccination as it is cheap and easy to mass produce.

Crucially it can be stored in a standard fridge – unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab which needs ultra cold storage at -70C – so it will be far easier to get the Oxford vaccine to care homes and GP surgeries.

Priority groups for immunisation – including the elderly, care home residents and health and care workers – have already been identified.

The Pfizer vaccine has been delivered in two doses, something which is continuing to be discussed in relation to the Oxford jab, according to Ms Evans.

She added: “It’s all about vaccinating as much of the population as we possibly can. Until now with the amount of vaccine that we’ve had, our strategy has been very much about individual protection.

“Now we can start to focus on population protection – we’ll need 80-90% of our population vaccinated if we’re to achieve an immunity. That needs to be all ages in our population.

“We need to encourage people to have the vaccination and we need to be able to deliver that at pace.”

Who will get the vaccine?

Earlier this month Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said that if the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by the end of the year, it could be rolled out to the over 80s who are not in care homes in January.

These vaccinations will largely be delivered through primary care settings.

Ms Freeman said after talks with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the British Medical Association (BMA), it had been decided that GPs would volunteer at vaccination centres.

Vaccinations will also be given in GP surgeries while staff will also be used to take vaccines to people at home who require it.

Ms Freeman said the government had “reached an agreement” with GPs on the overall cost of this.

All groups who have the “greatest clinical need” for the vaccine, according to the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation (JCVI), are due to be completed by spring.

  • those delivering the vaccination programme
  • frontline health and social care staff
  • older residents in care homes
  • care home staff
  • all those aged 80 and over
  • unpaid carers and personal assistants

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