‘Excellent’ progress on vaccine rollout in Scotland marred by unequal uptake
The Scottish Government has made “excellent progress” in rolling out Covid vaccines – but uptake is lower among young people, minority ethnic groups and the most deprived communities, Audit Scotland has concluded.
The public spending watchdog said the success of the programme meant fewer people were getting seriously ill and dying, with rates of Covid cases “significantly lower” among vaccinated people.
Audit Scotland praised government planning with health boards to ensure easy rollout, though it did express concern about the reliance on temporary staff to deliver the programme.
Auditor General Stephen Boyle said: “The delivery of the vaccination programme has been a success so far, with good collaboration and new digital tools developed to help the process.
“Early scenario planning by the Scottish Government and NHS boards has allowed them to continue to react quickly to formal UK clinical advice.
“There is now an opportunity for the Scottish Government to use what it's learned to manage the challenges of the next part of the vaccine programme, and the wider delivery of NHS services.”
Health secretary Humza Yousaf welcomed the report and praised the NHS staff involved in delivery.
He said: “I would like to thank all those involved in the delivery of the rollout. It is testament to their hard work and dedication that more than eight million Covid-19 vaccinations – both first and second doses – have now been administered in Scotland.
“We have taken into account what we have learned so far in drawing up our plans for the next stages of Scotland’s largest ever vaccination programme and look forward to its continued success.”
However, the Audit Scotland report also highlighted that while 85.7 per cent of over 18s in Scotland have received two doses of the vaccine, there was considerable variation by age, deprivation and ethnic group.
At 20 September, only 76 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds had received a first dose of the vaccine compared to 100 per cent of over 60s.
Uptake of the vaccine in the most deprived communities was 75.2 per cent compared to 82.9 per cent in the least deprived.
And while 88.2 per cent of white people have taken up the offer of a vaccine, only 66.5 per cent of Caribbean or black people and 66.4 per cent of African people had done so.
The lowest uptake by ethnicity was of those in the ‘other’ group (65.9 per cent), while uptake among Asian and mixed race groups were 76.5 per cent and 72.1 per cent, respectively.
The Scottish Conservatives said the government must “urgently rethink” efforts ensure uptake is as high as possible, including advertising on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.
Shadow health secretary Sandesh Gulhane said: “It is clear that many aspects of their vaccination strategy are not working right now. They are failing to reach young people and many people in our BAME and deprived communities.”
He added: “As we head towards winter, the SNP Government must guarantee every measure is in place to continue the overwhelming success of the vaccine rollout.”