Although the cohort is identified locally, we are working closely with all health boards, including NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to ensure that people are prioritised according to risk. Following Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advice, health boards prioritised administering boosters to the highest priority groups. I make the point that I know that I and other colleagues have made previously: the moment that we received that advice, there was already a backlog and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is working through it.
Like all health boards, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is accelerating its vaccination programme to ensure that as many eligible people as possible are protected ahead of the festive season, when there is likely to be increased social mixing indoors, with a consequential increased risk of infection. Figures from the United Kingdom dashboard show that we have administered boosters or third doses to a greater proportion of the population than any other UK nation.
I thank the cabinet secretary for his answer, but the reality of the backlog for vulnerable people is quite stark. One of my constituents, who is 83 years of age, waited for more than a month for a home vaccination appointment. When I made representations to the health board on her behalf, I was told that the vaccination team was simply too busy to provide her with an appointment date, which meant that she had to put herself at risk and attend a drop-in clinic to receive her vaccination. Vulnerable people who are not normally well enough to attend vaccination centres are being left behind and stuck at home in the run-up to Christmas.
What assessment is the Government making of the number of people who are either waiting for an at-home appointment or are forced to go to a facility and put themselves at risk? Will the Government commit today to ensuring that every one of them is vaccinated at home in time for Christmas?
Paul Sweeney is right to raise that question. That is an unacceptably long wait for a vulnerable person. I know that he is, however, aware of the obvious point that at-home appointments take longer. Not only do health board staff have to travel to an individual, but there is the 15-minute recovery period thereafter. Nonetheless, housebound people often have vulnerabilities that mean that they cannot travel to a vaccination centre, and I expect them to be prioritised.
I would be happy to give Paul Sweeney a breakdown of the progress that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has made with its vaccination programme. It is good progress, but I have asked the board and all health boards across the country to give me their plans for acceleration in the lead-up to the end of the year.
In an answer at First Minister’s questions, the First Minister said that elderly constituents should not have to wait outside vaccination centres for hours, and that the cabinet secretary was meeting health boards to discuss the issue. Why are elderly constituents still having to wait outside in winter weather for their vaccine? What action is being taken to increase the availability of waiting facilities at vaccination centres?
I would expect health boards to take care of the welfare of individuals who have to queue outside. I know that some health boards have put up marquees or gazebos, put heating in place and offered water, chairs and so on. I expect people’s welfare to be taken care of.
My preference is that there should be no queuing where possible, but we are accelerating our vaccination programme. Almost 500,000 flu and booster vaccines were administered last week, and that will mean that some people will have to queue. Thankfully, we have made excellent progress through the older age cohort and we are starting to make progress with those who are not so old. Where there are particular concerns about particular health boards and vaccination centres, I am more than happy to hear from members, and I will raise those concerns with the health boards in question.