Five-hour queue awaits people seeking jabs as demand soars ahead of Christmas

People desperate to be vaccinated ahead of Christmas have been facing queues of up to five hours as demand for the jab soars.

The Scottish Government has put its vaccination campaign into overdrive as it battles with the fast-spreading coronavirus variant Omicron.

Mother-of-two Alex Demetri tried to get her second dose at Leith Community Treatment Centre in Edinburgh on Friday, but had to abandon her plan after being told she would have to wait more than four hours.

She told the PA news agency: “It just annoys me because it’s so against what the Government is promoting, this whole idea of this massive drive to get everyone vaccinated, and it’s virtually impossible in a major city like Edinburgh to do that.

“I had to walk away without getting my vaccine, which is just infuriating.”

Leith Community Treatment Centre, Edinburgh
People were waiting hours to get their coronavirus vaccines at Leith Community Treatment Centre, Edinburgh (Dan Barker/PA)

The 35-year-old financial services worker said she was hoping to be able to pop in and “get it in time for Christmas so that I can meet more safely with my family”.

She added: “I turned up and all you can see is the queue all the way down (Great) Junction Street, and I went in and there’s one woman on reception and she was like ‘the wait is four or five hours’.”

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) closed as a mass vaccination centre earlier in the year, and Ms Demetri said: “Now you literally have to go to one of these small community centres to get your vaccine.

“I wasn’t able to get mine today, which is really disappointing, and there are lots of others in the same boat, I imagine, given the length of wait. People just don’t want to wait for five hours in the cold in December.”

The EICC will reopen as a vaccination hub on Tuesday as NHS Lothian steps up its drive, and will offer a combination of booked and drop-in appointments.

At the Leith centre on Friday, there were hundreds of people waiting in line.

Some of those had turned up hours in advance, with many taking the day off of work to get their next dose of the vaccine.

One woman had even taken her work with her, waiting in line with her laptop open.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Christoph Krupa, 24, turned up at 8.30am to get his vaccination, and was still waiting four hours later.

He wanted his second dose before going home to Switzerland for Christmas.

Lou Elliot, 20, said it was her second day of trying to get her booster and she had been queuing since about 10.30am.

On Thursday she was told the clinic could not take any more patients for jags at about 3pm.

People in the queue said they had seen people leave because they had got too cold, or were just fed up with waiting.

A 62-year-old woman from the capital, who did not want to be named, said she had turned up at around 9am.

“I would rather I’m not queuing but that’s the way it is,” she said. “It’s alright for me, I’m not working, but there’s others who have had to leave to pick up their kids and things.”

Susan Thornton, 42, arrived at the back of the queue at around midday with her one-year-old Guy in the hope that she could get her jag.

“I’m not going to stand here for hours,” she said.

Martin Richardson said he had arrived early but still had to wait four hours for his jab.

“I would have liked to have waited less,” the 28-year-old said after he finally got his vaccine.

He said members of the community had brought people in the queue food and drink, and he received a croissant and a hot drink.

A spokesperson for the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP) said that following the Scottish Government’s announcement inviting over-18s to book appointments for their booster vaccinations, the health body was seeing “a surge in our booked appointments and drop-in centre numbers” across all vaccination sites in Edinburgh, including Leith Community Treatment Centre.

“All our sites are offering limited drop-in facilities,” the spokesperson added.

“To support the anticipated (and actual) increase in demand, we have adjusted hours of opening and staffing, as well as ongoing advice to people waiting.

“This is a highly complex vaccination programme with many different strands being delivered at the same time.

“Our vaccination teams are working tirelessly to accommodate as many people as possible, prioritising pre-booked appointments.

“We continue to thank everyone for their patience, and urge those with an appointment to stick to their allotted time to try and help minimise queueing.”

EHSCP said those planning to attend a drop-in centre should ask about waiting times on arrival in order to make a decision on whether to wait, return at a different time, or book online for a future appointment.