Sturgeon faces backlash over slow vaccine roll out

The First Minister is being criticised over a lack of consistency in the supply of the Covid-19 vaccine to GP’s, causing many to question whether the country is keeping up with the rest of the UK.

It was initially anticipated that the over-80’s would be vaccinated by the end of January however, this target has now been moved to the first week of February, causing worry to many.  

As of January the 18th, in Scotland, 13% of over-80’s had received a vaccination, as had 90% of care home residents. 

In England only 50% of care home residents had been vaccinated however, 36% of those over-80 had been given the vaccine. 24% of over-80’s and 56.4% of care home residents have received their first dose in Wales.

Nicola Sturgeon faced criticism by leaders of the opposition in Holyrood this week over her implementation of the vaccine roll out. 

Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservatives leader, challenged Sturgeon, asking her to explain why Scotland’s vaccine roll out was at a slower rate than the rest of the UK.

Sturgeon refuted this claim, explaining that this was because they prioritised residents in care homes which they believe will have the most immediate impact on reducing the death toll.

She said it takes longer and is more labour intensive to vaccinate in care homes and mentioned that recently in England they explained the recent decrease in rate of vaccination because they were focusing more on catching up in care homes. 

The Conservatives’ vocal disapproval of Sturgeon’s actions has been condemned by others including Scottish Greens co-leader, Patrick Harvie, as an attempt to “undermine public confidence”.

According to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the first group of people who should be prioritised for vaccination are those living in care homes and care home workers. Those over-80 should be prioritised next.  

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, told Sturgeon that GPs from his constituency had contacted him, saying that they had run out of vaccine injections to give, leaving them with no choice but to cancel vaccination appointments. 

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the committee of the British Medical Association in Scotland said that GPs were finding it difficult to plan ahead because they can only contact patients to book appointments once they have been delivered their supply in order to not cause undue stress to patients by making a promise they are unable to fulfil. 

Buist expressed his frustration at the lack of consistency of supply to GPs across the country, calling the supply “quite patchy”. 

He made clear that the limiting factor in administering the number of doses required was not the infrastructure or workforce in his workplace, rather the unpredictable supply. 

The Scottish government’s target still remains in line with the UK’s, they project they will be able to vaccinate all of the first four JCVI priority groups by the middle of February. 

200,000 vaccinations will need to be administered every week for that deadline to be met. 

Scottish Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman told MSPs of her aim to have 400,000 people being vaccinated weekly by the end of February. 

From January 18th, soldiers predominantly from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have begun aiding NHS Scotland in establishing 80 new vaccination centres. 

As more of these centres open, the rate of vaccination is expected to increase significantly.

Image: Wikimedia Commons