Covid Scotland: MSPs say missed double jab target is 'broken promise' by Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “spinning figures” as Scotland's vaccination programme failed to hit a key milestone, in a development that could throw into doubt plans to continue to lift Covid restrictions early next month.

The First Minister told MSPs last month that “by 26 July, we expect to have given second doses to all 40 to 49-year-olds”.

However, she has now admitted only 75.8 per cent of the age group have received two jabs, claiming the aim had always just been to have “offered” the second vaccination by the specified date.

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The admission comes as Ms Sturgeon reconfirmed on Twitter on Monday night that all those in the 40-49-year-old cohort had been offered a slot for both vaccine doses.

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of breaking a promise to have all 40-49 year olds vaccinated.

The revelation that around a quarter of people in their 40s had still to receive their second vaccination was branded a “broken promise” by opposition politicians who urged the government to get its Covid jab programme “back on track”.

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Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon claims vaccine target for 40-49-year-olds has be...

Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Annie Wells said the First Minister and health secretary Humza Yousaf were both “in denial” about the vaccination programme and analysis by her party showed the government was on track to miss two more vaccination targets.

Based on July 25 vaccination uptake figures, only 36.1 per cent of 30 to 39-year-olds have received a second dose, and with the current vaccination rate the August 20 target to have all in that age group double jabbed will be 307,301 people short.

A September 12 target to have the whole adult population fully vaccinated will meanwhile be 627,436 short, according to the analysis. It currently stands at 69.1 per cent of the population.

Ms Wells said Ms Sturgeon had “broken her promise” that all 40 to 49-year-olds would be fully vaccinated by July 26, putting the lifting of restrictions in doubt.

She said: “The SNP have fallen woefully short of a target they set themselves. As we’ve seen so often in so many areas, they just don’t deliver.

"They are desperately trying to claim key vaccine targets have been met rather than face reality. They should be upfront about their failings instead of furiously spinning false figures.

“The whole of Scotland and the UK’s vaccine scheme has been a huge success overall, but in the final stages, the SNP have failed to reach young people by introducing a more targeted marketing campaign and increasing the availability of drop-in centres.

Nicola Sturgeon previously said meeting this target was a ‘condition’ to easing restrictions. The August 9 date that we all want to be met is looking shakier than ever now, all because the SNP became complacent and missed a crucial target.”

Scottish Labour’s health and Covid recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie accused Ms Sturgeon of “shamelessly trying to spin” the figures.

“Of course the vaccine isn’t mandatory and no-one expected 100 per cent coverage by this point – but we have fallen spectacularly short,” she said.

“Over 90 per cent of people in this group [40-49] have had their first dose, but almost a quarter are still waiting for their second – so it cannot be written off as a reluctance to be vaccinated.

“The SNP’s attempts to downplay these figures is a reminder that they are more concerned with optics than outcomes. This dismissive attitude will not help to get the vaccine roll-out back on track.”

However, speaking at the Police Scotland training college in Tulliallan on Monday, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think it’s important we deal in facts and not in childish politics, which at this time is not what we should be doing.

“No vaccination target has been missed and that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact.

“What we set ourselves the target of was offering, by now, the first dose of the vaccine to every adult, everybody over the age of 18, and two doses to the over 40 age group.

“Those targets have been met. Everybody in those age groups had those offers and appointments. Uptake rates are very high by the standards of any previous vaccination programme.”

Gillian Mackay, the Scottish Greens health and social care spokesperson, said the government needed to stop “jumping through linguistic hoops about what is and isn’t a target”.

She said: “The Scottish Government should be explaining how it intends to increase vaccine uptake, particularly among younger adults. The vaccine programme has been largely successful so far, but low rates among younger age groups is concerning. We know that the more people who get two jags the safer we’ll all be.”

Health minister Humza Yousaf also said 91 per cent of all people over the age of 40 had been doubly vaccinated, which was the “gateway condition” for moving to beyond level zero Covid restrictions.

On BBC Scotland’s GMS programme, he was pressed on missing the target to have completed second doses to all over-40s by today. Mr Yousaf said: “We can say that 91 per cent of over-40s have been fully vaccinated.

“To have 91 per cent of over-40s fully vaccinated on a non-mandatory vaccine is quite astounding achievement and our vaccinators and all of those involved in the programme should be thanked for their efforts.

“That's what was in the gateway condition. That was for everybody over 40. Anybody suggesting that is, as the opposition have done, humiliating or a failure? Well, I'm afraid that is just stupid."

However, Mr Yousaf admitted the figure for 40 to 49-year-olds was just 76 per cent, but the situation was “common across the UK”. He added: “But of course ... we have offered all 40 to 49-year-olds the vaccine. We have given them a letter, an appointment. There have also been drop-ins, there has been mobile vaccination units.

"But of course, with any non-mandatory vaccine there is going to be people that don't take the vaccine. Now I'd rather everybody did, but there are going to be people that don't.

“Look this is a situation that is common across the UK, that is as you go down the age cohorts and you get less of an uptake, and we all look to continue to try to increase the uptake figure right across the age ranges.

“Of course we want to continue to drive uptake, but I would be confident at this stage that we are able to move towards the target date of August the 9th.

"But the First Minister, of course, is going to update parliament on August 3rd, and it is appropriate that she gives the update. I wouldn't want to pre-empt it, but we are still confident that we will be able to move forward.”

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