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Ambulance staff should get second vaccine now not in 12 weeks, say trade unions

UNISON and the GMB are calling on the Scottish Government to give Scottish Ambulance Staff their second dose of their vaccine now rather than wait up to 12 weeks.

The call comes on the back of figures showing high instances of Covid positive cases amongst Paramedics, Technicians, Patient Transport and Control Room Staff. And a letter received this week from the Scottish Health Secretary rejected their request.

The wearing of PPE and the first dose of the vaccine being administered has made little or no decrease in positive cases.

The trade unions wrote to the Scottish Health Secretary on 22 January highlighting:

• Figures published by Public Health Scotland Glasgow City (highest rates per 100,000 in Scotland, sitting at 310: 100,000 compared to roughly extrapolated figures for the Scottish Ambulance Service sitting at over 4 times that rate.

• Figures from the Scottish Ambulance Service from the week ending the 17 January that the active number of positive cases rose to 164, an increase of 14 on the previous week, taking positive absence from 2.68% to 2.93%. Last week’s positive cases were 80 higher than the peak number of cases experienced during the first wave.

• Additionally, absence rates within the service remain at critically high levels, Covid absences alone are near 8 %, with an overall figure around 13 %.

• Total number of staff with a positive case recorded since the pandemic began is 687. Not one case has been attributed to work

• The British Medical Journal on the 6th January 2021 “Covid-19 vaccination: What’s the evidence for extending the dosing interval? | The BMJ highlights the risks of a proposed 12-week gap.”

• A joint statement from Pfizer and BioNTech said, “There is no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days”.

• The European Medicines Agency has said that the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should not exceed 42 days.

However, the information and evidence we have is showing the single dose is not offering appropriate protection and or having the effect anticipated by the JCVI and the Government.

New evidence suggests the vaccine has a lower efficacy in relation to the new variants so further enhances the risk.

Despite this the Cabinet Secretary has chosen not to act and hold off providing the second dose of vaccine to Ambulance staff

Stevie Gilroy, Scottish Ambulance Service Branch secretary said: “Failure to act now, has the potential to increase the risk to both patient and staff safety. Throughout the pandemic staff have faced challenges and risks to continue to provide the service, however when the risk is unnecessary then that unacceptable”

Gary Coll, GMB said: “Our members accept an element of risk coming with the job, but when the risk is compounded by the government’s failure to act then something has to be said. The enhanced risk to staff also has a direct impact on the safety of the public as we have fewer available resources.”