Future plans to roll out a coronavirus vaccine should be scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament after a “disorderly” programme of flu jabs, Willie Rennie has said.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said problems faced by people getting the flu vaccination should serve as a “warning” for the Scottish Government ahead of any potential Covid-19 treatment becoming available.
Eligible patients have faced delays and long queues across Scotland for their winter flu jab, with photos emerging of tailbacks at Edinburgh’s drive-through centre and NHS Highland bosses this week apologising to a Holyrood committee for their “naive” approach to the vaccination programme.
Mr Rennie raised the issue at last week’s First Minister’s Questions, urging the Government to ensure the “rush” for flu jabs does not become a “stampede” when a coronavirus vaccine is approved.
At the time, Nicola Sturgeon said any Covid-19 vaccination programme would be carried out in an “orderly fashion”.
She added: “We already have a programme board looking at the practical issues around that, there are discussions with the UK Government around procurement and what the likely volumes are that would be available.”
Following further problems with administering the flu jab, which was made available to more people this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Rennie has now said MSPs should get a say in planning for any Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
Mr Rennie said: “A vaccine is our silver bullet out of this crisis and we need to be preparing for it now.
“These plans need to be in place so we’re ready to disseminate a vaccine at speed as and when it is safely approved.
“The disorderly nature of the flu jab operation in Fife, the Highlands, the Borders, Edinburgh and elsewhere should be a warning.
“People have been waiting on the phone for hours without getting through to under-resourced call centres, failing to get appointments after weeks of trying, or being sent miles away to get the flu jab even when they don’t have their own car.
“The First Minister said she will work to maximise parliamentary scrutiny. This is one of the ways she can act on that.
“Parliament must be given the opportunity to scrutinise which groups will be given priority and the framework for delivery.
“People need hope. Preparing for a hard winter is important but we also need to see concrete plans to lift us out of this restrictive state as soon as is humanly possible.”
Ms Sturgeon previously told MSPs that an estimated 2.4 million Scots are forecast to receive the flu jab this winter.
She added: “All health boards are fully engaged in making sure that the flu vaccine system is delivered effectively and efficiently this year, and I think all of us should be encouraging everybody who is eligible for the vaccine to take it up.
“It’s important every year, but it is particularly important this year.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The First Minister has made it clear throughout the pandemic that parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s actions is welcome and necessary.
“At present, work is well in hand to ensure we are ready to deploy a coronavirus vaccine as soon as one becomes available.
“Our flu vaccination and Covid-19 vaccine programme board is considering how the Covid-19 vaccine will be deployed, including logistics such as who will deliver the vaccination and how it will be stored.
“The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations are continuing to provide expert advice to ministers to help inform decision-making on how the vaccine supply will be deployed in Scotland.”
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