Analysis: Why has Covid-19 vaccine rollout been delayed in Scotland?

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced in November that one million Scots would be vaccinated by the end of January, and everyone over the age of 18 would be offered a vaccine by the end of Spring.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh.

Six weeks later as Scotland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme nears the end of its first month, these targets have been changed.

Two weeks after her official announcement in November, Ms Freeman said she hoped to be able to vaccinate the first priority group in Scotland by Spring, rather than all Scots over 18.

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This group, in line with guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), comprises everyone over the age of 50, and those under 50 with underlying health conditions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has since said in early January that this group is in line to be vaccinated by early May.

In terms of the aim to vaccinate one million Scots by the end of January, Ms Sturgeon said the country aims to have access to 900,000 doses by then, which will not necessarily have been administered.

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So far, over 100,000 people have been given their first dose of the vaccine in Scotland.

So why have Scotland’s Covid-19 vaccination targets been delayed?

It’s important to note that the targets given by the Scottish Government have always been caveated as dependent on vaccination supply, and it is this caveat which ministers turn to when questioned.

When asked what had changed to cause the timeline to be altered, Ms Sturgeon said this week: “Nothing’s changed. If you go back to before Christmas when Jeane Freeman [made her initial vaccine statement] we didn’t know whether AstraZeneca was going to be approved in the timescale it has been, we had assumptions about supplies, both of Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

"Some of those assumptions have changed [...] that’s just the nature of what we’re doing.

"We’re trying to get the best information on supply that we can, then work out the timescales based on that.”

She added: “We’re dealing with a moving and movable situation here where we’re trying to give as much information in real time as possible, but being candid with people that it’s subject to change, and some of what changes is outwith our control.”

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