The Army has been drafted in to help roll out Scotland’s vaccination programme at new specialist sites across the country.
Almost 100 soldiers from Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in Leuchars will be dispatched across 11 vaccination centres covering all four corners of Scotland.
Neither the UK or Scottish Governments could say where the centres would be set up, but it is understood the first locations are being scouted in Lanarkshire on Monday morning, with the hope to have all sites identified by the end of this week.
The operation has been branded the “largest peacetime resilience operation” ever undertaken in the UK, which aims to help take the pressure off NHS Scotland, local councils and the Scottish Government.
The Fife-based military team will survey suggested sites for suitability, then organise car parking and traffic flow systems, establish patient recording methods and practices, organise vaccine delivery to the sites, prepare storage for medicines and equipment and conduct a smooth handover to NHS Scotland.
It follows calls made last week by Angus Council to utilise local armed forces personnel in the vaccine roll-out.
400,000 doses a week by February end
Armed forces personnel have already been utilised across the UK in the establishment of testing centres, including the drive-through facility in Pitlochry and the Coupar Angus chicken processors 2 Sisters.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the programme — scheduled to take around four weeks — will help deliver 400,000 doses per week by the end of next month.
She said: “This is the largest mass vaccination programme Scotland has ever under taken and I am very grateful to the armed forces for their support to help us meet the significant logistical challenges involved, and ensure that by the time sufficient vaccination supplies are in place, we have the facility to deliver around 400,000 doses per week by the end of February.
“This deployment will see 11, eight-person multidisciplinary teams providing fast and assured site preparation over a four week period, identifying and operationalising vaccine sites before handing them over to NHS Scotland staff.
“Vaccination is a vital tool in our work to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level in Scotland, but other measures including testing remain absolutely vital, which is why it is so essential people continue to follow the restrictions currently in place while vaccine delivery is rolled out across the country.”
Army’s ‘unique skillset’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The Armed Forces are operating across the length and breadth of the country, using their unique skillset to ensure the vaccine reaches the very finger-tips of the United Kingdom.
“Our work supporting the new vaccine sites in Scotland complements the extensive preparation and planning the military are already conducting to support the vaccine roll -out programme.
“Using the logistical expertise of military personnel, honed in warzones around the world, frees up NHS Scotland and local authorities to continue to focus on administering the initial 900,000 doses provided to Scotland by the UK Government in January.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack added: “For us all, vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m very pleased that the expertise of the British Armed Forces is helping the Scottish Government get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible.
“The UK Government is supplying and paying for vaccines for the whole of the UK – it is now vital that these doses are administered as soon as possible.
“The UK Government is supporting all parts of the UK during the pandemic.
“That includes our unprecedented furlough scheme, delivering the bulk of daily testing in Scotland, and providing the Scottish Government with an extra £8.6 billion to support Scotland’s covid response.”