The roll-out of this year’s flu jab and “booster” covid vaccine for the over 50s will be difficult, the health secretary has admitted, as the country prepares to face looser restrictions.
It was announced on Thursday over 50s and vulnerable people will receive a top-up of coronavirus inoculation this September, which the Scottish Government hopes to do at the same time.
Around 30 million people across the UK are expected to be offered the third jag.
Mr Yousaf said the government was working with all its partners to ensure difficulties and mistakes made in previous flu vaccine programmes did not impact this year’s implementation.
The Scottish Government used American Fortune 500 company ServiceNow to help organise the covid vaccine programme this last eight months.
It was deemed “not in the public interest” to disclose how much money the Scottish Government spent with the US computer software company, which has an operational turnover of almost $5 billion.
Mr Yousaf would not say if the same programme would be used for this year’s vaccines, but given the tight turnaround the same methods may have to be used.
The “vaccinator workforce” had been “cobbled together” during the past year Mr Yousaf said, with the aim being to create a “stable workforce” ahead of the coming flu season and possible wave of coronavirus cases.
Health Secretary Mr Yousaf said: “I’m not going to lie, it is going to be a challenging operation, no two ways about it.
“Already we have had good discussions with our health boards about how we are to do this. We are ready to go. We are still waiting on further and final JCVI advice, on what type of vaccines we would have to use for the booster etc.
“Generally speaking we are in a good place and hoping to capitalise on the momentum of the covid-vaccine programme, to remind people if they are eligible to also get the flu vaccine.
“We want to get to a place where in future years we have a vaccinated workforce.
“We obviously had to cobble together this vaccinated workforce and done tremendously well.
“I think in future we want to get a sustainable vaccinator workforce if we can, so we may have to use pretty much most of the same infrastructure that we have for the covid vaccine.”
Mr Yousaf said the government would continue to monitor the link between positive cases and hospitalisation, which would be key in deciding whether further restrictions can be lifted on July 19.
He added: “Our next milestone is July 19, the First Minister will update parliament on July 13, but we think we can still move forward with this.
“We will of course exercise caution and take public health advice, but we do know the link between positive cases and hospitalisation is still weakening.
“That is really important, we should of course be concerned about positive cases and we are, but thankfully the hospital data (although numbers are rising, but not to the extent we saw in the peak in January) is 200, not 2,000 in hospital. So we will keep a close eye on these things and take each review point as they come.”