Analysis: Covid-19 vaccine in Scotland: What's the problem with supply?

Opposition parties and health professionals alike have been calling for a faster rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Scotland this week.

More than 1,000 vaccination centres have been set up in Scotland.

It emerged on Monday that Scotland had access to 717,000 doses of vaccine, but had distributed just 265,000.

The British Medical Association in Scotland has been warning all week that some doctors are ready to vaccinate but don’t have enough supply, and Nicola Sturgeon revealed on Wednesday that just three-quarters of GP surgeries have received a batch.

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The BMA has now appealed to the Scottish Government for doctors to be able to order doses themselves, rather than this being done through health boards.

So how did we get here?

Some health boards are now moving at a faster rate than others – NHS Western Isles is steaming ahead with 12 per cent of the population given a first dose, while Lothian lags behind at 4.2 per cent. It’s worth noting, though, that NHS Lothian has got through almost 32,000 people, while NHS Western Isles, with a much lower population, has done around 3,000.

The supply delay has in part been put down to bureaucracy, with Dr Andrew Buist of the BMA complaining that orders have to go from GPs to health boards, then to NHS Scotland and then to supplier Movianto.

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Scotland Covid-19 vaccine programme: What we know so far

One reason the rollout is being done through health boards is because Health Secretary Jeane Freeman pledged a different approach to that of the flu vaccine, which was organised centrally to no great success.

As of Monday, Scotland had distributed around 40 per cent of its allocated 717,000 doses. It is understood that a significant potion of remaining doses are still in the distribution centre in England, from which health boards can make an order.

Based on estimated figures – as the UK Government will not release exact figures – at that time Wales had doled out about the same amount of its allocation, while England and Northern Ireland had got through about half.

Doses do need to wait for some time at the distribution centre to be tested by the MHRA, but it’s not clear for how long. What is clear is that some GPs are ready and waiting to deliver doses they don’t have, and any possible steps should be taken to smooth out that process.

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