EVERYONE in Scotland over the age of 18 could be offered a dose of the coronavirus vaccine by spring 2021, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has revealed.

She told MSPs that the inoculation programme could – if the drug is approved by regulatory bodies – start as soon as the first week of December, with 320,000 doses on order.

Up to a million Scots could receive a vaccine before the end of January.

The first phase will be offered to frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, those over 80 and people delivering the vaccination programme.

Over 65s and those at “additional clinical risk” are next in line.

The third wave will then target the general population.

The Health Secretary said distributing the vaccine would be one of “the biggest civilian logistical challenges in our lifetime”.

She admitted there were still many “unknowns” particularly over the specific availability, transport conditions, number of doses, the level of protection and the characteristics of certain vaccines.

But, she added, the vaccine would give people a “level of protection we don’t have through any other means”.

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Freeman said: “We don’t know if this vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, will stop you getting the virus, stop you passing the virus on, or prevent it from causing serious harm, and it may take many months before we fully understand the level of protection on transmission, and the impact on reducing the severity of the illness caused by the virus.

“We know that the first vaccines will require two doses, three to four weeks apart. It’s possible that further booster doses and even an annual programme might be required given we do not know how long any protection will last. For now, the important thing is that when we start to deliver these first vaccines, it will be on the basis that they offer some form of protection, even if we don’t, at this stage, know exactly how much protection that is.

“And it will be safe. So when we get in touch with you please go for the vaccine. It offers you a level of protection we don’t have through any other means.”

Freeman told MSPs that about 2000 vaccinators would be needed, with some working from mobile centres in public locations, and others in GP surgeries, and, some, if necessary, going into people’s homes.

The Health Secretary said the roll-out would be supported by the military.

Labour’s Monica Lennon called for more details as soon as was possible: “The workforce will be crucial to this work getting underway safely and quickly. However, lessons must be learned from the chaotic flu vaccination programme. The ambition to deliver one million vaccinations by the end of January needs to be matched by resources and investment in staff, and a clear plan on logistics.”