"SNP ‘too slow’ on vaccines rollout” – Mail on Sunday headline, 10 January 2021


According to official data, the Scottish NHS has vaccinated more people as a percentage of the population north of the Border than has occurred in England.


The pro-Union Mail on Sunday splashed a story in its Scottish edition of 21 January, claiming that an anonymous “top UK government source” – possibly Michael Gove – had told the newspaper that there were “fears” that Scotland was “behind the curve” in the “vaccine race” to inoculate the population against Covid-19. The paper’s English edition led on “QUEEN LAUNCHES JAB BLITZ”.

The essence of the Mail story was that the UK government had just announced it was ramping up its deliveries of Covid vaccines across Britain. The Mail’s anonymous Tory minister claimed the Scottish government was either unwilling or incapable of using this promised increase in vaccine supplies to up its target for actual vaccinations. No evidence was presented by either the Tory minister or the Mail as to why the Scottish government would fail to deliver.

READ MORE: New Covid jab to be rolled out in Scotland today – find your nearest vaccination centre

The Mail quotes (or rather paraphrases) the Scottish government as saying: “We’ll give 900,000 jabs in the next four weeks to the most vulnerable”. It then juxtaposes this with a quote from the un-named Tory minister: “We’re actually supplying MORE vaccine than that to Scotland… we fear the SNP is lagging behind.”


All Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to Scotland are controlled by the UK Government. The Scottish health authorities cannot inoculate faster than the UK government makes vaccine supplies available. Vaccinations began in Scotland on December 8.

According to Public Health Scotland, till 3 January (the latest date for official figures) some 113,459 individuals had received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccination. In England, to the week ending 3 January, a total of 1,112,866 had received a vaccination. On a relative basis, Scotland had vaccinated 2.08% of its population versus 1.98% in England. (Data from NHS England and Public Health Scotland).

READ MORE: Boris Johnson: There'd be no Covid vaccine in Scotland if it was up to Nicola Sturgeon

This official data shows there is no concrete evidence to show that the Scottish government and heath agencies are lagging behind those in England in delivering Covid vaccinations. Quite the reverse.


In Scotland, during the week from December 28 to January 3, 21,500 people were given a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a drop from 35,000 during Christmas week and 38,000 the week before. This drop was because the Scottish Government changed the dosing regime after fresh guidance from the UK-wide Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). This recommended that only one dose instead of two be administered, in order to vaccinate more people. This change led to the cancellation some repeat appointments.

There is no reason to believe this temporary drop will have any long-term impact on the tempo of vaccinations.


Given this concrete evidence, there is no proof suggest any inadequacy in the Scottish vaccination regime, as alleged by the Mail on Sunday or their anonymous ministerial source. But what of the Mail’s tendentious suggestion that the Scottish government would be unable to ramp up vaccinations if (and when?) the Westminster Government supplies more vaccine? This unfounded allegation lies at the heart of the Mail’s “non” story, based only on quotes from a Tory minister unwilling to be named (and thus having to substantiate their claims). The Tory source claimed that the Scottish Government would soon have enough vaccine to inoculate everyone in Scotland over 70, by “the end of this month”, i.e. January. This claim is patently absurd.

READ MORE: Jeane Freeman hits out at UK Government’s 'political game' over Covid vaccine roll-out

According to the Prime Minister himself (Daily Mail, January 11), the Westminster Government’s own target is to vaccinate the 15 million people in England in the top four priority groups (including those in their 70s) by mid-February. Boris calls this target "massively stretching' but 'achievable'". How can the anonymous Mail source then castigate Scottish ministers for not aiming to vaccinate everyone in the top four groups fully a month earlier than the English target?


As of January 11, the Scottish government has opened more than 1100 vaccination sites. Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced that the first two priority groups –including care home staff and residents, frontline health workers and over-80s in the community – will receive a jab by the start of February. Vaccinations will then be offered first to the over-75s and then the over-70s, through the rest of February.

It remains to be seen if England can vaccinate all over-70s by Valentine’s Day. Curiously, the Daily Mail headline on January 11 was: “Britain’s Covid vaccine chaos”. Britain meaning England.


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