Scottish Ambulance Service call handlers have started to receive the coronavirus vaccine after a government U-turn allowed them to be prioritised, a union has said.
The Scottish Government initially refused to include control-room workers in the priority category, arguing they were not “patient-facing”, according to the Unite trade union.
However, after concerns were raised about the impact of potential outbreaks on the emergency service’s response, the Government agreed to allow the Scottish Ambulance Service to decide whether call handlers should be prioritised.
As a result, the first call centre staff received a dose of Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday morning, with all of the approximately 500 workers due to be vaccinated by the end of the week.
Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Unite is delighted that following our pressure the Scottish Government agreed to defer the decision for vaccinating control-room workers to the Scottish Ambulance Service, who agreed with us that all their workforce should be prioritised.
“It was a bizarre position for the Scottish Government to initially not prioritise the workers because they are not ‘patient-facing’.
“Without them, we don’t have an effective service, so it’s a relief for the workers and we welcome that by the end of this week all control-room staff will now receive the vaccination.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “As stated previously, 75% of our patient-facing staff and our students have so far been vaccinated.
“The Scottish Government has been clear that the vaccine should be deployed in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance.
“In order to avoid wasting vaccine, the Scottish Ambulance Service took the pragmatic decision, outwith the JCVI guidance, to vaccinate some control room staff.”