First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised to people turned away from vaccine clinics after government advice encouraged them to attend for booster jabs.
Ms Sturgeon blamed a “glitch in the system” as the reason people were told they could not receive injections to help combat the new omicron strain of Covid.
Experts earlier warned the process of getting vaccines into the arms of those that need them in time will be difficult.
In Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon was criticised for not taking on the latest UK-wide advice quickly enough.
Surely this should have all been sorted before the first minister told people to bring forward their appointments.”
Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader
What is the latest advice?
The waiting period between second inoculation and a booster jab has been reduced from six months to three, as part of efforts to limit the spread of the variant over the winter period.
The Covid vaccination status app is due to be updated on December 9 to allow Scots to prove they have had their booster dose, to meet the requirement of some European countries coming into effect on December 15.
At Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions session, Tory leader Douglas Ross asked why the message had not been spread to health care professionals at vaccine clinics, who reportedly turned people away.
‘Get vaccinated as soon as possible’
He said the chief medical officer had told people on Monday to book an appointment and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Mr Ross said on Tuesday the national clinical director told people on Twitter they would get a booster if they turned up.
“Also on Tuesday, the first minister came to this chamber and told the public to book appointments for boosters based on the new three-month timescale,” Mr Ross said.
“We know the proper procedures had not been put in place and people ended up being turned away.
“Surely this should have all been sorted before the first minister told people to bring forward their appointments.”
He added: “At this critical moment, we need to continue the success of the vaccine programme to tackle this new variant.
“The SNP Scottish Government needs to show the same urgency to rolling out the booster vaccines as was the case in delivering the first and second doses.
“There is a backlog of close to two million people in Scotland waiting for their jag.”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “I am very sorry to anyone who was turned away from a vaccine clinic yesterday.
“When advice changes, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advice changed on Monday, then because this is a clinical procedure, there is a process for updating protocols and materials to make sure that everything is being done in line with clinical protocols.
“In the normal course of events that is a process that would take around a week. That has happened now already.
“We have taken steps to ensure that that information has been cascaded down to vaccination clinics everywhere across Scotland.
“Scotland currently has the fastest vaccination programme anywhere in the UK, on first doses, on second doses, on third doses and crucially on booster doses.
“Particularly when advice changes very quickly, there may be glitches in the system like we saw yesterday, but when it does happen we take steps to rectify it as quickly as possible.”
She added: “This is one of these situations in a massive programme where the advice changed very quickly and very substantially, where yes I concede a small number of people had an experience they should not have had.
“We are rectifying that and the advice remains if you are eligible for your vaccination within the new guidance, go on and book your appointment.
“The guidance has been updated and people will be vaccinated.”
‘Not going to be easy’
Public health expert Professor Linda Bauld meanwhile warned getting one million vaccines out over the next period would “not be easy”.
The expert told the BBC: “I heard the stories of people turning up and expecting to get their second dose within three months.”
She said you can’t “click a finger” as soon as the advice is updated by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
“It is a big logistical undertaking,” she added.
“People will be able to bring forward that second dose and get it within three months for those that are eligible quite soon, but we need to give the system a few days just to sort that out.
“It is going to have to deliver, I understand, about a million additional doses with the groups that are now eligible. I am sure it can be done, but it is not going to be easy.”
Earlier on Thursday, Deputy First Minister John Swinney told Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee the updated booster guidance has been reiterated to health boards in an attempt to stop people being wrongly turned away.
“I regret very much that some individuals had the experience they had yesterday because the guidance changed and that should have been applied in all vaccination centres and scenarios,” he said.
“The fact that people are so willing to come forward for the booster jab at such an early stage after the change of guidance is an indication of the public attitude to participate in the programme, which is welcome – which makes it doubly disappointing that people were inconvenienced in the way that they were.”