Covid Scotland: Ambulance call handlers to receive vaccine after government U-turn

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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.

It comes after concerns were raised last week about the impact of potential outbreaks on the emergency service’s response, if they are not to receive the vaccine.

The Scottish Government had initially refused to include control-room workers in the priority category, arguing they were not “patient-facing”, according to the Unite trade union.

But the Government has now agreed to allow the Scottish Ambulance Service to decide whether call handlers should be prioritised.

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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.”

Meanwhile, more than 400,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine are yet to be administered despite having arrived in Scotland, the Tories have claimed.

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Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said so far the Scottish Government had received 717,000 doses of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines – but claimed crucially that well over half of these had not yet been used.

She challenged the First Minister on the issue as Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland’s lockdown would continue until the middle of February at least.

But Ms Sturgeon insisted that Scotland was not behind target in vaccinating people.

The First Minister said: “Supplies are allocated to Scotland, they are then drawn down to Scotland, and we vaccinate as quickly as we possibly can.

“That will continue to be the case.

“In terms of the doses that are in Scotland, many of them have already been put into people’s arms.”

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