Jeane Freeman defends Scotland vaccinating by age instead of prioritising key workers like police or teachers

Jeane Freeman has defended vaccinating by age instead of prioritising key workers like police or teachers in Scotland.

Speaking at the daily briefing on Friday, the Scottish health secretary announced Scotland would follow the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on the next stage of the coronavirus vaccination programme, which goes by age.

People aged 40-49 will be prioritised for a Covid-19 vaccine in phase two of the vaccination programme, followed by those aged 30-39 and then those aged 18-29.

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She said: “I understand why some of our professions and our sectoral groups may be disappointed in the JCVI’s advice, but they are crystal clear about where the greatest risk factor lies and it lies on age.

Jeane Freeman has defended vaccinating by age instead of prioritising key workers like police or teachers.

"It doesn't lie on the basis of where you work, but on how old you are as well as if you have underlying health conditions or are clinically extremely vulnerable.

“We're working through those groups. It is the right thing for this government and indeed the other governments of the UK to follow that clinical advice.

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“Logistically it also makes significant sense. It is straightforward for us to identify people on the basis of their age through our NHS Scotland highly secure and protected records.

“It is much more difficult to go through those records and pull out who is a teacher, who works for the police force, who does something else that takes longer.

“The JCVI have said from the very start ‘go as quickly as you can’.

“In 30 years no government in Scotland has gone against the advice of the JCVI and there's a really good reason for that is this is clinical expert advice.”

National clinical director Jason Leitch said: “Health and social care workers have an occupational exemption, not because of who they are, but who they look after.

“If you are a 26-year-old nurse in an intensive care unit, you’ve been vaccinated because of the 85-year-olds in intensive care, not because of your risk.

“The joint committee has been crystal clear this morning.”

Ms Freeman explained the rollout was the same across all parts of the UK and that every administration was on track.

She said: “We welcome the interim advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for phase two of the vaccine deployment programme to continue prioritising people for vaccinations by age, as this is assessed to be the best way to address the risk of severe illness and mortality.

“All four UK nations will follow the recommended approach for phase two of the vaccine rollout, subject to the final advice given by the independent expert committee.

“Each government remains focused on the target to offer a first vaccination to all those in the phase one priority groups by the middle of April and the remainder of the adult population by the end of July subject to the availability of supplies.

“The vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.

“All these measures work to greatest effect when they work together.”

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