Nicola Sturgeon has branded people who refuse to get a Covid vaccine as “selfish” amid growing concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant.
The first minister made the provocative remark at Holyrood while explaining the government’s latest measures to keep the virus under control.
Ms Sturgeon was asked by SNP MSP Kenny Gibson what further steps ministers are taking to protect the NHS.
He said a “hugely disproportionate” number of the people being treated in intensive care with Covid chose not to get vaccinated and this has had a “significant and ongoing adverse effect” on the health service.
With record waiting times and talks of hospitals in “crisis”, Mr Gibson said these individuals are affecting the NHS’s capacity to treat patients with other illnesses.
‘I would say you are being selfish’
Ms Sturgeon said her government has taken steps to reach out to those who have not yet been vaccinated “to encourage them, even at this stage, it’s not too late and they should do so”.
But she warned those who refuse to get the jag are putting the lives of every person they come into contact with in danger.
Ms Sturgeon said: “What I would say pretty bluntly to people is if you are eligible and able to be vaccinated right now and you are choosing not to be vaccinated, you are being deeply irresponsible. I would say you are being selfish.
“You are putting your own life much more at risk and you are putting the life of everybody you come into contact with at risk.”
The first minister said that was true before the emergence of Omicron and it “might be even more true now”.
She added: “So please for your own sake get vaccinated but if you’re not going to do it for your own sake, then do it for the sake of others you’re coming into contact with.
“And for goodness sake, don’t put their lives on the line.”
A shift in tone
The SNP leader’s comments appear to represent a significant shift in tone for the Scottish Government.
In July, Deputy First Minister John Swinney dismissed remarks from Michael Gove that those who refuse a Covid vaccine when they are able to receive one are “selfish”.
Mr Swinney, who is also the Covid recovery secretary, was asked about Mr Gove’s comments as the UK Government considered introducing vaccine passports.
“I think it’s the wrong way to handle it,” Mr Swinney said.
“I would be much more convinced by an argument that was about engaging people, taking people with us and explaining the rationale.
“Rather than the type of language that you’ve just put to me from Michael Gove.”