The British Army has started to help set up 80 coronavirus vaccination centres throughout Scotland as part of the largest peacetime resilience operation carried out by the armed forces.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed the deployment of 98 soldiers over the next 28 days to identify and prepare suitable locations for NHS Scotland to administer the Covid-19 vaccine.
Soldiers will organise vaccine delivery to the sites, prepare storage for medicines and equipment and how to register and record patients as well as sorting car parking and traffic flow around the sites.
The troops, most of whom will be from the Leuchars-based Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, will then hand over the running of the sites to the health service.
Lieutenant Alex Humphries was at the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility, near Motherwell, on Monday overseeing a team of eight soldiers who were helping to set up a vaccination centre there.
He said: “We’re here today specifically to conduct the recce part of the operation, so myself and the other commandments are out today visiting sites across Lanarkshire looking to build as the week goes on.
“We are meeting today with the military liaison officer and the local authority whose responsibility it is to set up these vaccination centres.
“From the most junior soldier to the most senior officer, people know how important this is.
“They’re proud to be supporting their local communities – some of our soldiers are from two miles away from here.
“They see what they’re doing as not only supporting Britain in its fight against Covid-19, but also they’re working with their local communities, supporting NHS Scotland and their local authorities – they’re incredibly proud.”
The 98 soldiers will be directed by 20 military personnel based in Stirling while a further 32 will offer support alongside the Scottish Government and Scotland’s health boards from St Andrews House in Edinburgh.
Mr Wallace said: “The armed forces are operating across the length and breadth of the country, using their unique skill set to ensure the vaccine reaches the very fingertips of the United Kingdom.
“Our work supporting the new vaccine sites in Scotland complements the extensive preparation and planning the military are already conducting to support the vaccine rollout programme.
“Using the logistical expertise of military personnel, honed in warzones around the world, frees up NHS Scotland and local authorities to continue to focus on administering the initial 900,000 doses provided to Scotland by the UK Government in January.”
Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This is the largest mass vaccination programme Scotland has ever undertaken and I am very grateful to the armed forces for their support to help us meet the significant logistical challenges involved, and ensure that by the time sufficient vaccination supplies are in place we have the facility to deliver around 400,000 doses per week by the end of February.
“Vaccination is a vital tool in our work to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level in Scotland but other measures including testing remain absolutely vital, which is why it is so essential people continue to follow the restrictions currently in place while vaccine delivery is rolled out across the country.”
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