More than 12,000 Fifers have received coronavirus jabs in the first stage of a mammoth vaccination programme across the region.
NHS Fife said it had made “significant strides” towards protecting the region’s most vulnerable residents with around 5,000 care home residents and staff at the front of the queue.
Some 7,100 healthcare staff have also been vaccinated as part of efforts to maintain critical NHS services over winter.
The news has brought a glimmer of hope that the rising tide of infections could soon be on the turn following a heartbreaking year for hundreds of local families.
The first of many milestones has been reached.”
SNP MSP David Torrance.
Health chiefs have warned against complacency, however, and urged people to keep following public health rules to ensure the virus is suppressed.
While the Astrazeneca vaccine is said to reduce the chances of people becoming seriously ill, it is not yet known if it will stop them from catching and passing on the virus.
A number of care homes have experienced outbreaks and just last month 19 elderly residents at the HC-One-owned Lomond Court in Glenrothes died.
MSPs hailed NHS staff for their tireless work in getting the first phase of the vaccination programme off the ground.
But people have been urged to be patient as they wait their turn.
Communication ‘absolutely vital’
Labour’s Alex Rowley said keeping people informed of progress would help ease anxieties.
My office has been inundated with calls from elderly people asking when they’ll get their jags.
Labour MSP Alex Rowley.
“Communication and transparency is absolutely vital,” he said.
“The fact all the care homes have been done is great – a huge well done to all the staff.
“But my office has been inundated with calls from elderly people asking when they’ll get their jags.
“We’ve been telling them it’s coming and once they hear that they’re really pleased.
“It’s crucial they are kept informed.”
He added: “It will be a while before we can get back to normal but this vaccine gives some hope.
“The number of deaths we’ve seen is heartbreaking.
“These are people with families and the level of heartbreak across Fife has been high.
“We have to remind ourselves of that.”
SNP MSP David Torrance praised the dedication of NHS Fife’s workers.
“The first of many milestones has been reached in administering the vaccine to residents of all 76 care homes across Fife,” he said.
“NHS Fife management have to be praised for their swift handling of this complicated logistical process.
“I welcome the news that all 54 GPs are now on board for delivery of the next phase of the vaccine roll out for the over 80s in our communities.
“I urge the public to be patient in waiting for their opportunity to be vaccinated as I have seen how hard NHS Fife staff are working…and believe they are doing a fantastic job in tackling the pandemic and protecting the most vulnerable in our community.”
‘Do not become complacent’
NHS Fife’s director of public health Dona Milne said the progress was encouraging but added: “It is vital that we do not become complacent.
“We know that the prevalence of Covid-19 in our communities has increased and we need local people to continue to follow the public health measures in place if we are to suppress the virus and reduce the numbers becoming seriously unwell.”
We are asking for continued patience over the coming days and weeks as the community vaccination programme rolls out.”
NHS Fife director of pharmacy Scott Garden.
Most GP practices have already begun booking appointments for the over-80s.
Next in line are those aged 75-79, followed by the 70 to 74 age group and people considered clinically vulnerable.
NHS Fife will release timelines for those groups in the coming days.
Patients should not contact their GP practice for updates due to the sheer scale of the operation.
Director of pharmacy and medicine Scott Garden said: “We recognise that many people are incredibly keen to get vaccinated and we are asking for continued patience over the coming days and weeks as the community vaccination programme rolls out.
“Healthcare staff are working incredibly hard to vaccinate local people as quickly as vaccine supply allows and we will get to all of those who are eligible and who wish to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.”