Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine supply ‘a bit bumpy’
The supply of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is “a bit bumpy”, the First Minister has said.
But the pharmaceutical firm has told Nicola Sturgeon it was working to put manufacturing on a more “sustainable” footing.
Sturgeon said the plan to vaccinate all over 80s by the end of January was still on track and those over 70 will shortly begin receiving appointment letters for February.
The aim is to have all those on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list to have had the first dose of the vaccine by early May, but this will depend on adequate supply of the vaccine.
On AstraZeneca, Sturgeon said: “The supplies, by dint of the manufacturing process, are a bit bumpy at the moment.
“They would expect them to level out and become much more sustainable at a certain level as we go further into this year, but at this early stage they are a little bit bumpy and this is reflected of course in the supplies coming into Scotland.
“But as we get supplies, our job is to get them to people and to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
The temporary hospital NHS Louisa Jordan has been established as a major vaccination site delivering “thousands of vaccinations” each day, in addition to those being given at GP surgeries across Scotland, Sturgeon added.
But the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland has warned that “patchy” supply was making it difficult to plan appointments.
Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Scotland, Dr Andrew Buist, a GP in Blairgowrie and chair of the BMA’s GP committee in Scotland, said: “We can't send out appointments to patients until we're sure we have the vaccine in our fridge.
"We were given 100 doses on Monday. We used that all up by Friday. We don't want to send out appointments to patients until we know that we can definitively vaccinate them otherwise patients get very upset."
And when asked about the different pace of delivery compared to England, Sturgeon insisted all four nations of the UK were working towards the same target, but Scotland appeared further behind because it had prioritised care home residents.
She said: “The reason why there’s a slightly different pace at the moment is because we started in Scotland, as the JCVI recommended we did, in care homes.
“Taking the Pfizer vaccine into care homes, vaccinating elderly care home residents, is a bit more labour intensive and time consuming, but we have focused on that first so we are now, I think, about 80 per cent through the vaccination of care home residents.”
She said the pace of vaccination would pick up as the focus turned to community groups.
Nadhim Zahawi, the minister responsible for the vaccine rollout in England, earlier said around 50 per cent of care home residents have been vaccinated.
However, the Scottish Conservatives have warned that if rollout slows in Scotland, delivery targets will be missed.
Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “The Scottish Government have received more than enough vaccine doses from the UK Government. Any supply issues, like those that BMA Scotland have said GPs are experiencing, are Nicola Sturgeon’s responsibility alone.
“These delays in the SNP’s rollout cannot be explained only by prioritising care homes, as the Scottish Conservatives argued should happen from the beginning.
“We are all hoping this vaccine delivery is a success but the SNP’s track record of delivery doesn’t inspire confidence. The flu jab rollout was a shambles and this slowdown raises the concern that the COVID vaccine delivery will go in the same direction.”
Sturgeon also announced that a new £5m NHS medicine delivery service would be established by the end of the month to help people access prescriptions. It is expected to remain operational until at least the end of March.
A £57m fund to support taxi drivers meet their fixed costs and £750,000 to provide unpaid carers with grants was also announced.
The Scottish cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss any further changes to be made to lockdown rules, with the First Minister to make a statement to parliament in the afternoon.