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Vaccine roll out: Sturgeon ‘satisfied’ but is she moving the needle?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would be “satisfied” with Scotland having the slowest vaccine roll-out rate as long as the final, self-determined government targets are met.

Scotland has the slowest vaccine rate in the UK, latest figures provided by the Scottish Government show.

A reduction in the rate was recorded over the weekend, with Ms Sturgeon suggesting a possible “weekend lag” could be responsible.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said the first minister’s excuses are “wearing thin”, while the Scottish Conservatives accused the Scottish Government of putting a second referendum on independence ahead of the vaccine programme.

The first minister maintained Scotland is “ahead on care homes”, which are “more labour intensive”. Without additional detail, Ms Sturgeon announced the government is looking at “piloting” 24-hour, seven-days-a-week vaccination centres.

Public Health Scotland said 415,402 people had received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by 8.30am on Monday, an increase of 11,364 from the previous day.

A further 5,538 people have received the second dose, a rise of 155.

Deaths from Covid-19 in Scotland were recorded in the Glasgow City local authority area only over the weekend, but this could be explained by difficulty in registering deaths on Saturday and Sundays.

‘Satisfied with speed and planning’

When asked by this paper during the coronavirus daily briefing if she would be satisfied with having the slowest rate if her government’s own targets were hit, as well if she was satisfied at the adequacy of country’s vaccine programme, Ms Sturgeon said “yes”.

She said: “I said there was a possibility of a weekend lag in the data but we will confirm later and, in any event, we will catch up as we go through the week.

“I have said many times, and people can take different views on this, as it is to question the detail of it, why we are focusing on care homes first.

“A slightly lower proportion of over 80s, but that is picking up now.

“I said in my opening remarks I am absolutely confident in meeting the targets we have set. I am confident and assured around the planning of this but I am not complacent on this.

“We need to make sure we are taking the decision on a daily basis and taking the decisions of supporting a wider service, to get this programme administered as quickly as possible.

“This is the most important thing the government is doing right now.”

‘Wearing thin’

North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie questioned why vaccines were being left in fridges and not being given to GPs.

He said: ““The first minister’s excuses on the roll out of the vaccine are wearing very thin.

“People see Scotland slipping further and further behind England on this critical public health initiative.

Vaccine roll out Sturgeon
Willie Rennie.

“It may take longer to vaccinate someone in a care home but that doesn’t mean the hundreds of thousands of unused vaccines should be left in storage when GPs could be sticking them in people’s arms.

“The question for the first minister is: why are GPs being deprived of the vaccines when they are ready to get on with the job.”

Government putting ‘independence first’

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said while the vaccine roll out slowed down, the SNP continued plans for a second referendum on independence.

“We are all desperate to see the Covid-19 vaccine delivery be a huge success but there’s now a clear-cut pattern of the SNP falling behind their own targets each week.

“We’ve warned the SNP’s vaccine rollout has been sluggish for some time but the latest evidence shows it’s a shambles over the weekend.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s claims of a data lag are clutching at straws when this has happened two weeks in a row, and the figures are not picking up enough midweek to get back on track.

“They are failing to deliver the seven-day service that was promised, and GPs are still not getting supplies quickly enough from the SNP.

Douglas Ross.

“While vaccinations slowed over the weekend, the SNP were debating their plan for a second independence referendum this year.

“Plans for a ‘roadmap’ and ‘task force’ to deliver independence are a reckless distraction from the task at hand and it’s impacting the vaccine rollout.

“The SNP are failing at the most important challenge facing our country because, in their eyes, indyref2 trumps everything else.

“They’re putting a referendum first and risking Scotland’s recovery from this pandemic.”