First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has denied the vaccine roll out in Scotland is “patchy” and accused the UK Government of “spinning numbers”.
Ms Sturgeon presented an update on lockdown restrictions to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, where she announced schools would remain closed to all except vulnerable pupils and children of keyworkers until the middle of February.
Mainland Scotland will remain under the current strictest of measures, while the islands of Barra and Vatersay will be brought into line, following an outbreak of 39 cases that has seen 10% of the population there have to self-isolate.
The SNP leader accused the UK Government of having a “hissy fit” following the publication and subsequent retraction of vaccine dosage figures.
Ms Sturgeon said she disagreed “patchy” was a description of the vaccine’s distribution, following comments made by BMA Scotland GP Committee chairman Dr Andrew Buist, who pointed out the feelings of a number of doctors who fear how many doses are being distributed.
NHS Highland said on Tuesday the roll-out of vaccines to rural areas had been “variable”, but that targets set would likely be hit.
The first minister said the country was on course to have given 400,000 first doses per week by the end of February.
She noted 90% of care home residents, 70% of care staff and 70% of frontline health workers had received their vaccinations.
A total of 284,582 first doses has been distributed in Scotland.
All those aged 65 and above will “hopefully” receive their first doses by March, while everyone on the priority list set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation should have had at least one injection by early May.
UK Government ‘briefing and spinning’
More than 700,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed to the Scottish Government.
When asked why there were 400,000 doses “undelivered” in Scotland by Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson, Ms Sturgeon claimed the UK Government had “spun” the figures, but did not dispute the 700,000 figure.
I want to be blunt. We published details estimating supply for now and into the future. We put it out on the web and circulated it. The UK Government then had something of a ‘hissy fit’ about us doing that.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
She said: “The strategy we have followed, for very good and very clinical reasons, to protect those most quickly who are most vulnerable of becoming ill and dying.
“In Scotland 90% of care home residents have been vaccinated, a higher percentage, by some considerable distance, than the position in England.
“We are picking up pace with over-80s. We are not behind our targets. By January we expect to be vaccinating 100,000 per week. We are exceeding that.
“We have set targets, supplies permitting, for 400,000 per week.
“The four nations may be going about it in a different order, but we are all following the same targets.
“I want to be blunt. We published details estimating supply for now and into the future. We put it out on the web and circulated it. The UK Government then had something of a ‘hissy fit’ about us doing that.
“We agreed to take away those supply figures, they don’t want us to be open about the supply for reasons of commercial confidentiality.
“What we have is the UK Government briefing and spinning misleading figures on supply. They have to be clear about which approach they want us to take.
“Supplies are allocated to Scotland, then drawn down to Scotland and we vaccinate as quickly as we can.
“That will continue to be the case as we go through the groups in the programme.”
‘A worrying slowdown’
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said: “The way we get pupils back into school and get everyone back to some degree of normality is rolling out the vaccine as quickly as possible.
“Over the weekend we’ve seen a worrying slowdown in the SNP’s vaccine rollout. Understandably, this has left people not just anxious, but concerned that they don’t get left behind.
“Hundreds of thousands of doses are at the SNP Government’s disposal. GPs across Scotland and the BMA are saying the vaccines are not reaching them quickly enough.
“Instead of answering these serious questions from vulnerable patients, medical leaders and GPs, Nicola Sturgeon decided to go on a bizarre rant at the UK Government, accusing them of a ‘hissy fit’ over a serious breach by the SNP – this was clearly intended to draw attention away from her government’s own failings on the vaccine rollout and had more than a whiff of desperation about it.
“Nobody is impressed by the first minister playing politics and trying to deflect on such a serious issue. They want to know why the Louisa Jordan was shut on Sunday with no vaccines taking place and what wider problems are holding up the rollout.
“We know how many doses of vaccine have so far been delivered to Scotland, we know how many GP practices have agreed to take part in the process. The GPs know who their patients are and how to contact them.
“The only thing missing is that the SNP are failing to deliver stocks quickly enough. The go-slow is on Nicola Sturgeon and nobody else – but she won’t explain what’s going wrong.”
Passing the buck ‘unhelpful’
Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford suggested the blame in “patchy” vaccine roll out was the fault of a UK company, Movianto.
Ms Sturgeon said she would have the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman explain how the distribution process works.
She added: “What we are certain of is, there will always be interruption of supply but based on our expectations right now we are confident of our supplies, which will allow us to make the targets set.”
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “Local people are very anxious and increasingly frustrated about the sluggish pace of the vaccination programme.
“Many are distressed appointments have been cancelled because the GPs have run out of supplies.
“Last week the Health Secretary admitted 200,000 doses were stuck in storage in England. This week we discover that number may have doubled to 400,000.
“But the government continues to blame the manufacturers instead of sorting its own distribution system.
“Passing the buck won’t vaccinate more people in need. The government needs to sort out this problem before it gets any worse.”