Medical leaders to write to care home staff amid fears over anti-vax campaign

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MEDICAL leaders are writing to all care home staff in Scotland amid fears they are being targeted by anti-vaccination campaigners.

Dr Gregor Smith, Scotland’s chief medical officer, said misinformation around vaccines is one of the biggest dangers the country faces.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pleaded with everybody to get the vaccine when offered, insisting she will “be there with my sleeve rolled up” as soon as she gets the chance.

 Coronavirus Scotland: 1,429 new Covid cases in 24 hours with no new deaths

She said the Scottish Government is “thinking very hard” about how to make sure the concerns of staff are properly addressed.

Speaking during her coronavirus briefing, she said: “I have read and heard reports of anti-vax forces trying to target staff and particular groups to discourage them from taking the vaccine and I would really deprecate that kind of conduct.”

She added: “Whoever you are, whatever sector you work in, whatever age you are, when you are offered this vaccine my strong, strong plea, advice, encouragement, exhortation, call it what you want, is to get the vaccine.

“It is for your own good and of course it helps us collectively fight this virus.”

Ms Sturgeon said more than 50 per cent of staff in older adult care homes have been given their first dose of the vaccine, alongside more than 80% of residents.

She said she hoped the number of care home staff refusing to be vaccinated was “a small number”.

 Scottish care homes targeted by anti-vaccine groups in ‘wholly despicable’ campaign

Dr Smith urged people to read trusted sources.

He said: “When I hear about particularly targeted misinformation to any particular groups, it makes me really concerned because it preys on people’s anxiety and fear.”

He said he will be writing to all care home staff alongside the chief nursing officer and the chief pharmaceutical officer “to explain exactly the rationale behind vaccination” and what it can offer in terms of protection.

Last week, Scottish Care said the majority of homes in Scotland had been targeted by a “concerted campaign” to discourage uptake of the vaccine.

Chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill said the campaign was “wholly despicable”.

He said: “We are pleased that there are signs that many more care staff are taking up the offer of the vaccine.

“Many care homes are reporting uptake over 90%.

“We know that this gives both individuals and their families, their colleagues and those they care for real protection.”

He continued: “We are dismayed that a concerted campaign has tried to undermine confidence but we believe that the professionalism of care staff will ensure that if they have any specific questions about the vaccine then they can access trusted sources of information.

“We cannot allow lies to take the place of truth, and to diminish the protection which the vaccines offer the care sector.”

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Ms Sturgeon said Scotland had recorded 1,429 positive coronavirus tests in the past 24 hours.

No new deaths have been registered, meaning the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – stands at 5,305.

The First Minister said 163,762 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 162,333 the previous day.

The daily test positivity rate is 12.3%, up from 9.5%.

Of the new cases, 451 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 244 in Lanarkshire, and 178 in Lothian.

There are 1,959 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, up 41 in 24 hours.

Of these patients, 146 are in intensive care, down one.

Ms Sturgeon thanked the army for the logistical support it is providing, as she said Scotland is “on track” to complete vaccinations for care home residents, health and care staff and those aged over 80 by the start of February.

It is hoped everyone aged over 65 will have had their first dose of the vaccine by the beginning of March.

The First Minister also said £5 million of Scottish Government cash is being used to establish an NHS medicines delivery service.

This will be available to about 1.5 million people, including those who had been shielding previously.

It will be operating by the end of this month, and available until “at least” the end of March – although this date will be kept under review.

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