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Call for calm as Fife GPs begin AstraZeneca vaccine rollout for over 80s

Advanced nurse practitioner Justine Williams prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine. Pic by Andy Buchanan/PA Wire
Advanced nurse practitioner Justine Williams prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine. Pic by Andy Buchanan/PA Wire

Health chiefs in Fife have pleaded with people to be patient amid fears GPs could be swamped with requests for the Covid-19 jab as the vaccination programme gets under way today.

The appeal comes after the health board had to apologise for its handling of flu vaccination appointments in September and October, when phone lines were swamped in the early stages.

All 54 GP practices in Fife will contact people over the age of 80 by letter or telephone when the vaccine becomes available to them.

Patients are being urged not to contact the health board or GP directly.

A spokesperson for NHS Fife said: “In line with the delivery of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to community settings and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority guidance, we will begin to contact people to arrange vaccination appointments from this week.

“As getting this vaccination to everyone in Fife is a significant undertaking, it is important that people do not contact the health board or their local GP practice.”

The spokesperson said: “The pace of the roll out will be dependent on vaccine supply, which will be phased nationally.

“It is important everyone waits to be contacted to allow GP practices and hospitals to focus on delivering care.”

The flu jab chaos unfolded after NHS Scotland sent 75,000 letters to the region’s over-65s on the same day advising them that vaccination was about to start.

Only eight call handlers were deployed in Fife with the capacity to answer 12,000 calls a week.

Extra staff had to be called in to meet the demand.

NHS Fife pledged it would learn lessons from how that process was handled.

‘Lessons have been learned’: Review finds NHS Fife’s flu vaccination programme caused significant anxiety

The call for patience comes amid concern about a new text and email message scam.

NHS Fife director of public health, Dona Milne, advised people to be wary.

“We are aware of scam emails and text messages, claiming to be from legitimate sources, telling recipients that they have been identified for Covid-19 vaccination,” she said.

“While these can appear quite convincing, you will never be asked to confirm your identity or provide any personal details by text or email in order to access an appointment to get vaccinated.”

An appeal for registrants to assist with the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine produced an overwhelming response, NHS Fife said, and it has thanked everyone who took the time to respond.

Individuals with required skills will be contacted by the health board throughout this week. Those who are not contacted by the end of January will have their details kept on file in case other appropriate opportunities arise.

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