‘The end is in sight’ as Shetland nurse receives isles’ first Covid-19 vaccination

A Shetland nurse has received the first Covid-19 vaccination to be administered in the isles, marking a historic moment in the fight against the pandemic.

Occupational health nurse Sam Wylie received the jab on Friday, the day after Shetland’s first consignment of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrived.

Her colleague in occupational health Margaret Cooper gave her the vaccination. 

“It feels good,” Ms Wylie said.

“I feel quite lucky to be in one of the priority groups.

“I’m one of the vaccinators so I’m at the front of the queue and I’m relieved to have it done today.”

Other members of the occupational health team will also be vaccinated, as they are at the frontline delivering the vaccination programme. 

“It’s been a lot of work getting ready for it,” Ms Wylie said. 

“But it’s good to get it going and get the vaccines out there.”

Thursday’s delivery was of 975 doses in 195 multi dose vials, which is expected to be sufficient to vaccinate at least 400 people, allowing for wastage.

Everyone receiving the vaccine will need to take two doses 28 days apart.

The first jabs were administered on Friday to members of the vaccination team. Other groups prioritised in the first phase include care home residents and staff as well as a smaller number of health workers.

Bernadette Dunne, senior occupational health advisor, said it was an “exciting moment”.

Ms Dunne praised the scientists who had worked tirelessly developing the vaccine as well as those who had organised the logistics around supplying it to health boards. 

The UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for use last week. 

Since then, hundreds of thousands of doses have been distributed at sub-zero temperatures all across the UK. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Monday that the first supplies had arrived in Scotland over the weekend, ready for distribution to health boards across the country.

By Wednesday, more than 5,000 vaccinations had been carried out in Scotland. 

Although it was initially hoped Shetland would receive its first consignment on Tuesday, along with other parts of the country, logistical challenges resulted in a delay. Shetland was the last health board to receive its delivery. 

This particular vaccine needs be stored at -70ºC, necessitating complex travel arrangements, particularly to reach outlying areas.

Ms Dunne said it was a “relief” to see her team protected from this infectious  disease.

“You do worry about your staff,” she said.

“You wan’t to make sure it’s a safe environment and, heaven forbid,  I would have hated for a member of my staff to get infected by it.”

The team was set to begin to vaccinating social care workers and some healthcare workers from Friday afternoon, with logistical support from Leanna Copland and Elizabeth Milton in the administrative team.

Ms Dunne said the co-ordination of the programme was a “huge” task. 

Care home managers had already been asked to provide lists of staff who want to have the vaccine. 

Although it is not mandatory for staff to be vaccinated, Ms Dunne said she had been “really pleasantly surprised by the uptake so far”.

“We are getting a lot of people taking up the offer, both from social care and the NHS,” she added. 

Initially it was feared the logistical challenges may have prevented the delivery of vaccines to care homes to reach the residents, particularly in the outer islands. 

The latest advice, however, is that it will be possible. 

Teams of community nurses will be leading that part of the programme. 

Ms Dunne said her own team would be administering the vaccine from three clinical rooms within the hospital, with a capacity of 75-100 vaccinations a day. 

NHS Shetland is expecting to receive a second delivery of the vaccine before Christmas. 

Ms Dunne also expects the Astrazeneca vaccine to be available in around three weeks. 

She hopes to begin phase two of the vaccination programme, which will include older folk as well as people in high risk groups, by the end of January. 

Brian Chittick, IJB chief officer, hailed the first vaccination as a marking a “historic day”.

“It feels really positive and as though there is now a light at the end of the tunnel,” he added. 

Mr Chittick said it had been achieved through a “fantastic combination of efforts” from teams in the NHS and SIC. 

“That beig said, today is just the start of the vaccination journey,” he added. 

“It will take time, we will ask people to be patient because it will be done in three tranches and this is just the start of that journey.”


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