NHS Grampian has been named one of the best-performing health boards for administering the Covid vaccine – as the country hit a new milestone in the roll-out.
A meeting of the authority’s board yesterday was told more than 70,000 people have received their first of two jabs protecting them against coronavirus.
This includes more than 88% of care home staff and more than 96% of the over-80s.
Vaccination teams across the region have been praised for their “strong performance”, with all over-75s on course to have been offered the first dose of the vaccine by the end of this week.
At its current pace, NHS Grampian has taken the silver medal spot for its speed of the vaccine roll-out, behind just one other health board, and with further enhancements to come.
The authority was asked to increase the number of weekly jabs administered from 25,000 to 40,000 at the end of January.
Pharmacy director David Pfleger said chiefs had to work quickly to “flex” the system and move resources to where they can be best utilised.
As a result, the Alford and Ellon mass vaccination centres have been closed in order to better stock and staff the larger clinics at P&J Live in Aberdeen and the Fiona Elcock centre in Elgin seven days a week.
Mr Pfleger said: “It is going well, with a strong performance.
“We have to give a massive thanks to the team and residents for taking up the offer.”
The drive to administer more vaccines also pushed up the timescale for Grampian signing-up to the national appointment scheduling system.
It initially planned to do so when it was time to offer jabs to 16-64-year-olds with health risks – the sixth of nine priority groups laid out by the Joint Committee On Vaccination And Immunisation (JCVI).
Since the board’s last meeting, all patient-facing staff are now being offered twice-weekly Covid tests using the lateral flow method.
NHS Grampian has also taken over a regional lab for processing results.
It has the capacity to undertake around 4,000 tests per day, increasing to 6,000 if a 24/7 round-the-clock service is initiated.
At the beginning of the pandemic the lab was responsible for around half of all care home Covid tests.
It is expected to hit the 100% mark within the coming days.
The board also heard that the north-east’s contact-tracing team has been expanded with a view to further drive down community transition.
Additionally, a series of six community asymptomatic testing facilities are to be opened this month allowing people in Old Aberdeen, Peterhead, Buckie, Lossiemouth, Elgin and Forres to be tested even if they are not showing any symptoms.
National vaccination figures are published every Wednesday but, like NHS Grampian, others were also able to provide a more recent update.
As of yesterday morning, 50,606 people in the Highlands and 5,262 in the Western Isles had received their first jabs.
Meanwhile, it was announced a new national record for vaccinations had been broken.
More than 45,000 people received their first jab of a coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday.
This was the largest single-day number recorded so far and brought the Scottish total of doses administered to 694,347 and counting.
New Scottish Government statistics have revealed that five north-east residents are among the new 53 Covid-19 related deaths recorded.
Four residents of Aberdeen City and one Aberdeenshire resident sadly died after contracting the virus.
In total, Covid cases across the north-east have increased by 77 and the north-east’s total now stands at 12,646
Of these new cases, 39 were identified in Aberdeenshire and 23 in Aberdeen city. Fifteen new cases have also been confirmed in Moray.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland’s vaccine rollout co-ordinators are “motoring through” the remaining priority groups across the country.
The First Minister said uptake rates for the vaccine have so far been beyond what she thought was possible.
Meanwhile, chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen said she hopes the impact of vaccinations on the severity of the disease will begin to show in the coming weeks.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman acknowledged earlier this week that Scotland’s vaccine rollout needed to speed up, amid criticism from opposition parties that other parts of the UK were pulling ahead.
At the coronavirus briefing yesterday, Ms Sturgeon said: “The uptake rates we’re seeing, and I hope this continues as we get into the younger population groups, are way beyond anything I could ever have believed would be possible – way beyond what we see in the flu vaccine programme.
“That’s testament to the willingness and the enthusiasm of people to come forward and be vaccinated for their own safety, but also to be part of that collective effort that we need to have to beat this virus.”