Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th January 2021.

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The First Minister:

When Parliament was recalled last week, I said—I think in response to a question from a Labour member—that we intend to break down into categories the numbers of people who have been vaccinated, which we currently publish weekly. I hope that we could also do so by region and by health board. I will consider whether there is potential to have greater frequency of publication. I am simply mindful of not putting too many burdens of data collection and publication on the people whom we are expecting to undertake that huge logistical challenge, so it might be that weekly publication will remain the best balance, together with a greater breakdown of statistics.

It is not that long since the vaccines were approved. In particular, the Oxford-AstraZeneca one is still at an early stage. However, we have already vaccinated more than 100,000 people. At this stage, a small percentage of our population has been vaccinated; the level in Scotland is slightly higher than those in the other UK nations. However, we must continue to focus on accelerating the process as much as possible. As I said earlier, at the moment that is largely constrained by supply. We know what we expect to receive for January, which I hope is a conservative estimate. We are not yet clear on what supplies we can expect beyond that.

As for the call for priority for the over-80 population, vaccination of those people will start shortly and will be an on-going process. We have been recalculating our modelling for the speed and timescale of vaccination as a result of the change in the chief medical officer’s advice on giving the second dose of the vaccine up to 12 weeks after the first dose, rather than three weeks after it. That will allow us to get the first dose of vaccine to more people much more quickly. We are ensuring that we take full advantage of that, just as we are taking full advantage of the supplies of the vaccine as we get them.