Rhoda Grant seeks reassurances in Parliament people living in remote and rural Highlands & Islands will have full access to the Covid-19 vaccine

Rhoda Grant raised concerns in Parliament today (Thursday 19TH November) that people in remote and rural Highlands & Islands will have less access to the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

Speaking to the chamber and addressing the Cabinet Secretary Jeane Freeman, the Labour Highlands & Islands MSP said: “The cabinet secretary will be aware that many of my constituents cannot access Covid-19 testing simply because of where they live. Can she give them the reassurance that they will receive the vaccine regardless of where they live? They really need a reassurance that they are not going to be left behind.”

Mrs Freeman replied: “It is entirely for GPs to volunteer to do the vaccine, so the GPs and the practice nurse and other clinical teams are very welcome to be involved in this programme, we have reached an agreement with the British Medical Association on financial reimbursement for them to do that.

The assurance I give is that we will do everything that we can to ensure that every citizen in Scotland who is eligible for this vaccine, so that’s all adults over the age of 18, is able to be vaccinated whether that be we take it to their own home or via a mobile unit.”

Mrs Freeman added that a number of mobile testing units would be set up across the constituency.

Speaking afterwards Mrs Grant said: “I was grateful for the reassurances I was given in chamber today and I will be delighted to see these mobile testing centres. People in many parts of my constituency have certainly had to be patient.

“However, despite the cabinet secretary’s encouraging words, the real fear for many will be that the struggle to access a test will be mirrored by a new struggle to access the vaccine. I will be doing all that I can to point out to the government the nature of our remote and rural communities to make sure that she fully understands.”

Mrs Grant last week highlighted that there were large swathes of the Highlands and Islands where ordering a Covid-19 home testing kit was a useless exercise due to the postal delivery and collection system.

Prompted by constituents saying they could not receive a home test, she asked the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre to research a list of all areas where tests could not be delivered.

The independent research uncovered that people in Inverness and Moray were covered, but large areas were not including postcodes on the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Argyll and Bute, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.

However, NHS Shetland’s Chief Executive, Michael Dickson, has now revealed how his health authority set up its bespoke system and Mrs Grant is asking the Scottish Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, if other rural and remote areas could do the same.