Almost half of Scottish adults given first vaccine dose as supply problems loom

Almost half of Scottish adults have been given a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, even as weekly dose rates lag below target and a row over supply with the European Union continues to brew.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman addresses MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.

As of Monday morning 2,182,400 Scots had received a first dose of vaccine, approaching half of Scotland’s 4.4 million adult population.

Almost all Scots over 65 have received a first dose, along with 90 per cent of those in the 60 to 64 age group, and 55 per cent of those aged 55 to 59.

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It comes as the Scottish Government fell short of the weekly 400,000 doses promised by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last Monday, with just under 337,000 first and second doses given throughout the week.

Two days later the Scottish Government said it would need to ‘rethink’ its vaccination programme after news broke of a 500,000-dose drop in expected supply, which UK health secretary Matt Hancock attributed to a delayed delivery of five million AstraZeneca doses from India.

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland is still on course to give first doses to all those in the highest JCVI priority groups by mid April, but that second doses would have to be prioritised.

It is the third announcement in a series of reductions in supply which have seen Scotland unable to deliver vaccines at its ‘maximum capacity’ of 400,000 doses a week, a target the Scottish Government hoped would be met from the end of February.

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Further supply issues may be on the horizon after European leaders threatened to block exports of vaccine from the EU to the UK.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU has the power to “forbid” exports to countries with higher vaccination rates who do not offer reciprocal supplies of vaccine.

Eric Mamer, spokesperson for the commission, said on Monday that the EU was not set on “banning vaccine exports” but wanted pharmaceutical firms to meet their contractual obligations.

Around 10 million doses of mainly Pfizer vaccine have crossed the channel to the UK, but Brussels has complained that no AstraZeneca doses have been sent in the other direction.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been in discussions with EU leaders over the potential supply issues.

“I’m reassured by talking to EU partners over the last few months that they don’t want to see blockades, I think that’s very important,” he said.

“Clearly what matters to us in the UK is we get on with the rollout of the vaccine programme.

“I think we’ve now done over half the adults in the country, which is very good news.”

A total of 30 million doses have now been administered in the UK.

Some 11 health boards have delivered first doses to more than half their populations, with just Grampian, Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lothian yet to reach that milestone.

Ms Freeman told MSPs and MPs on Thursday that the slower rate of vaccination in NHS Lothian has been down to a higher proportion of people aged under 50 living in the health board area.

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