A St Andrews mum-of-two feared she would have to isolate from her own children after she was missed off the Scottish Government’s priority Covid vaccine list.
The woman, who is undergoing cancer treatment, is one of several vulnerable Fifers unable to get an appointment despite weeks of trying.
Her children have returned to high school where they are mixing with hundreds of other pupils.
She fears contracting Covid but says she was abandoned by a system where no-one was able to help.
She has contacted everyone she can think of and now feels “stressed and frustrated”.
Gordon Blain from Newburgh was in a similar situation.
The 70-year-old should have received an appointment in February when thousands of other over-70s were vaccinated.
But his letter didn’t arrive and he spent several weeks trying to sort it out himself.
Scotland’s NHS has delivered more than two million Covid vaccines and all adults are likely to have received their first jab by the end of July.
The rollout began with the over-80s at the start of January.
Over-50s are now receiving their invitations.
While the process has generally been successful, some people have not received appointments when they should have.
‘Sent round in circles’
Both the St Andrews mum, who asked not to be named, and Mr Blain said they faced “extreme difficulties” as they navigated the system.
“I have done everything I can to try and get my covid vaccine appointment booked and I really don’t know where else to turn,” said the woman.
“Despite contacting the vaccine helpline, the shielding helpline, my GP, completing the NHS online form and contacting the NHS Fife helpline and everyone else I can reach, I have been sent round in circles and still cannot get an appointment.
“I have done everything and I am still no further forward.”
People are at their wits end.”
Willie Rennie MSP.
She added: “My children have returned to school and so, along with many other vulnerable people who have not yet been vaccinated, I now have to make a decision about whether to isolate from my own children.
“Throughout my cancer diagnosis and treatment, this vaccination situation has been the most frustrating to deal with.
“There is nobody I can contact to sort out the fact that I have been missed.”
‘Tried for weeks’
Meanwhile, Mr Blain said he had been left out despite his best efforts.
He finally got his jab by going to his local vaccination centre and asking staff what he should do.
However, his official invitation has never arrived.
“I tried for weeks,” he said.
“I eventually went in to the centre. All I wanted was to ask if they would call me if they had any vaccine left at the end of their shift.
“They were very nice and said they would do it there and then.”
“That’s great for me but what about all the other poor people who are struggling to get an invitation.”
He added: “The vaccine is my route to safety and increased freedom further down the road.
“They should be desperately reaching out to me, not the other way around.”
“I was incredibly frustrated and quite a little bit cross about it.”
Long waits are ‘unacceptable’
Both Mr Blain and the St Andrews mum contacted North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie for help.
He said many other frustrated constituents had found themselves in the same boat and had also been in touch.
The Liberal Democrat MSP called for an immediate fix.
“These long waits are unacceptable while we are trying to encourage the maximum possible uptake of the vaccine to keep everyone safe from the virus,” he said.
“I am grateful to the hard working staff in Fife who have done their utmost to reach everyone and get them the vaccine.
“But people are at their wits end with the national booking system which is letting them down.
“The government is aware to these concerns and these problems because I have raised them with the government and with NHS Fife.
“But we need them to fix this immediately so that no one is left out including those shielding and vulnerable.”
The Scottish Government said a backlog in processing missed appointment queries had now been cleared.
It exceeded its targets for vaccinating the over-70s by the middle of February.
More than 90% of those aged 70-74 received jabs by February 20.
What should people do if they are missed?
Covid vaccine appointments across Scotland are sent out using a national scheduling tool.
Anyone who has not received a letter but thinks they should have can contact NHS Inform.
Alternatively, they can call the Covid-19 helpline on 0800 030 8013.
NHS Fife’s director of pharmacy and medicines, Scott Garden, said the vast majority of the region’s over-60s have received their first Covid vaccinations.
Most of those considered clinically vulnerable have also received their first jab.
However, a small proportion of people within these groups have not yet received their letters.
“We want as many people as possible to take up the offer of vaccination and our message to those people is that they will still be able to get vaccinated, ” said Mr Garden.
“A system has been put in place nationally to ensure eligible people across Scotland who have not received an appointment will not be missed.
“Anyone within the eligible categories who has not received a letter, or who has lost their letter, can arrange an appointment by providing some details on the NHS Inform website.
Appointments could then take up to three weeks to arrive.
‘There was a small backlog’
A Scottish Government spokesman said the national tool draws on information from various sources, including GPs.
“From time to time there may be inaccuracies in data held by NHS boards and GPs, including out-of-date addresses,” he said.
“There was a small backlog in processing missing appointment queries received through the missing appointment service but this has now been cleared.”