I have been contacted by a number of local police officers who feel that they should be prioritised when it comes to receiving the Covid vaccine. I have spoken to some officers who have had to self-isolate three or four times since last March.
Can the First Minister give any details of discussions that the Scottish Government has had with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation regarding the prioritisation of certain professions, such as police officers and teachers, so that they could receive the vaccine first, once the initial prioritisation list has been completed?
I have previously set out some of the issues that we are grappling with here, and I know that people understand them. In the early phase of the vaccination programme, we have limited supplies, so we have to prioritise where those supplies go first. Instead of Government doing that based on our judgments, we have—as we always do on issues around vaccination and immunisation—taken the clinical expert advice of the JCVI, which has asked us to prioritise based on the order of people in clinical need and at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill and dying.
That is the list that we are working through right now. We hope to have completed that initial list by the early part of May. To recap, that is everybody above the age of 50, and any adult of any age with underlying health conditions. There will be some police officers included in that, just as there will be some teachers included in that. However, as we go through the early phase with limited supplies, every time we decided to attach greater priority to one group of people, we would have to deprioritise another group, which would be a group that the JCVI has considered is more clinically at risk, and I do not think that, ethically, that would be the right thing to do.
However, as we get to the point at which we are getting to the end of the initial priority list, we will, of course, think about the order in which we vaccinate the rest of the adult population. The JCVI is currently considering what advice it might give on prioritisation in the second phase, and we hope to receive that in the near future. Part of its consideration will be of whether there should be occupational prioritisation for healthy individuals from 16 to 50—subject, of course, to the latest data on vaccine safety and effectiveness. When we have that advice, we will set that out to the Parliament, and we will also set out the decisions that we will take on the basis of it.