Scottish ministers have been warned the pace of the the country’s coronavirus vaccine rollout will need to be more than doubled to meet the government’s own targets, amid a cross-border row over efficiency.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman hit out at her political rivals over the weekend over claims the Scottish Government has been “too slow” to deliver its supply of jabs to the public, and has now vowed to vaccinate 560,000 people by February.
Ms Freeman said every care home resident and staff member, frontline health and social care worker, and everyone aged 80 and over will receive the vaccine in the coming weeks following criticism over the government’s handling of the rollout.
However, at the current pace of around 7,131 vaccinations a day, just 313,131 people will have received the jab before the end of the month.
Official records show 163,377 people were vaccinated as of Sunday, an increase of 49,918 over the previous seven days. To meet Ms Freeman’s target, a further 11,756 people will need to be vaccinated each day – more than double the current rate.
Our own analysis shows Scotland is ranked third of the UK’s four nations for proportion of the population vaccinated, at 2.99%. Only Wales was lower, at 2.73%, while 4.15% of the population in England and 4.86% in Northern Ireland have had the jab.
There is also uncertainty about the number of vaccine doses in Scotland, with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove claiming the Scottish Government has been given “considerably more” by the UK Government than it has used.
Ms Freeman told BBC Scotland that her government has not received the approximately 500,000 doses reported in the media but first minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed just hours later that the figure is “broadly right”.
A sluggish pace
Ms Freeman said: “We intend that by the end of this month, the very beginning of February, we will have vaccinated all residents in care homes and staff, all front-line health and social care workers and all those aged 80 or over.
“So that’s just under 560,000. We’ve already vaccinated about 70% of people in care homes and about half of the health and social care workforce.”
But Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Donald Cameron, said the rollout of the vaccine “appears to be sluggish and clearly the pace needs to be increased”.
“It may be early days but vaccines will need to reach people more than twice as fast to reach targets,” he said. “We all want to see the delivery of this vaccine succeed so we can defeat the virus as quickly as possible.
“The SNP need to show us their plan to accelerate the process. On current trends, they’re going to fall far short.”
The health secretary said it was “absolutely our intention” to match a pledge by the UK Government to offer the vaccine to everyone in the top four priority groups by the middle of February but warned this is dependent on supplies.
It comes after Nicola Sturgeon refused to commit to the pace set by prime minister Boris Johnson during her daily briefing on Friday.
Asked if the Scottish Government has all of the half a million doses at the moment, Ms Freeman said: “No, we don’t. They come in every week and we have delivery schedules, and we are ready to vaccinate all those people as the supplies arrive.”
The Scottish Government is aiming to give everyone over 50 and those with underlying health conditions their first dose of the vaccine by early May.
The health secretary confirmed those under 50 who do not have underlying health conditions could expect vaccinations to start in the spring.
GP surgeries across Scotland have received the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with the mass rollout beginning on Monday.
Ms Freeman said: “We know we are ready in that we have the sites, we have the vaccinators, we have the support staff. What we need to tie down for February and March is how the volume of the vaccines will come to us.”
Support The Courier today.
The Courier is committed to delivering quality content to our communities and right now that’s more important than ever — which is why our key content is free. However, you can support us and access premium content by subscribing to The Courier from just £5.99 a month. Because Local Matters.Subscribe