Coronavirus in Scotland: Vaccines for Scots with underlying health conditions to be delayed as supply dips by 200,000 this week

The rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine to Scots with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers will be delayed due to an expected dip in supply, health secretary Jeane Freeman has said.

The issue has meant Scotland received delivery of almost 200,000 fewer doses of Pfizer vaccine than expected on Tuesday this week.

At the same time Scotland’s rollout has accelerated and is expected to hit 400,000 doses in one week for the first time this week.

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Lower supply combined with moving through that supply particularly quickly this week, will mean a slowing down of the rollout in the latter two weeks of February, Ms Freeman said.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman addresses MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, on the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine.Health Secretary Jeane Freeman addresses MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, on the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman addresses MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, on the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine.

The health secretary said current targets will be met of vaccinating the over-70s and clinically extremely vulnerable by the end of February.

However, there will be delays to the next cohort, which is group six on the JCVI priority list – those aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers.

Ms Freeman said the country was still on track to vaccinate this group and all over-50s in Scotland by the end of May.

Vaccination of those in group six will begin later than expected, Ms Freeman said. The group was due to begin receiving doses in early March, but appointment letters may only be received around that time, Ms Freeman said.

She told the Covid-19 committee on Thursday: “The total doses that we received on the seventh of February was around 196,000 less than expected, and therefore less than was covered in our deployment plan published in January.

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"Alongside this we have vaccinated around 75,000, more people, as a result of significant and very welcome take-up.”

She added: “Members will recall Pfizer being publicly clear that their production would slow down, so they could scale up to meet global demand. So the volume of supply for the UK is reduced for a limited period.

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"If you take all that together and you factor in planned second doses, which will increase towards the end of February for Pfizer, and March, for Oxford AstraZeneca, we need to remodel our delivery to ensure that we carry enough supply to meet both first doses and planned second doses.

"We are on target to vaccinate 400,000 people this week. That’s two weeks earlier than our commitment.”

Ms Freeman added: "We will not roll out as quickly to group six as we had originally intended.” She said if vaccine supply unexpectedly increased, the country has the capacity to speed up the rollout.

A scaling-back of the vaccination programme is also expected in Wales in the next few weeks.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has said it is not aware of any disruption to Pfizer vaccine supply.

A spokesperson for the UK Government insisted there was “no issue with vaccine manufacture or supply”.

"We are still confident that the steady, regular supply of doses will continue to support the vaccine rollout right across the UK in the weeks ahead,” they said.

Pfizer is upscaling production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, in efforts to produce more doses than originally planned for 2021 – temporarily reducing deliveries to all European countries.

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The overall number of doses delivered to the UK from Pfizer between January and March is set to remain the same.

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