NICOLA Sturgeon has hit out at Ruth Davidson over claims Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the UK on the vaccine roll out.

The First Minister rejected the Tory chief’s claim that vials of the inoculation were sitting unused. 

Sturgeon told MSPs that the majority of doses in Scotland “are actually already in people's arms”.

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The SNP leader said the numbers of vaccines administered on Monday was up 56% on the previous Monday. She said the same figure in England was just 40%. 

During the session at First Minister’s Questions, Davidson repeated UK Government claims that more 700,000 doses of the two vaccines had been supplied to Scotland.

But Sturgeon said there was a huge difference in what had been allocated and what had been supplied. 

Last week, the Department of Health was furious after the Scottish Government published a vaccine delivery plan, with a week-by-week breakdown of stocks. 

The UK Government department said it could lead to manufacturers being pressured by other countries.

In Holyrood on Wednesday, Sturgeon accused ministers south of the border of throwing a “hissy-fit”. 

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Today, Davidson dismissed that as a “bizarre rant”.

“The First Minister got what she wanted, which was a cheap headline, but the country didn't get what it needed, which was answers.

"So instead of trying to throw blame onto others, will the First Minister finally explain to the country why the vaccine rollout is lagging behind in Scotland? Why are hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses not reaching GPs and patients quickly enough?”

Sturgeon replied: “The vaccination programme is not lagging behind in Scotland. I set out yesterday that we had very deliberately focused first on elderly residents in care homes.

“Why did we do that? Because these are the people according to the [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation], who are most vulnerable to becoming ill, and dying from Covid. 

“So we have now vaccinated, with the first dose, more than 90% of those elderly residents of care homes, and that is what we think will have the biggest and most immediate impact in reducing the death toll from this virus which as we heard from the figures I reported today is still far too high. 

“And the reason why the overall numbers, therefore are lower at this stage is because of that focus in care homes, because it takes longer and is more labour intensive to vaccinate in care homes than it is in the community.”

She pointed to UK Government comments this morning explaining that tackling care homes was behind the daily rate of vaccination in England, as each residence takes between four and six hours. 

The First Minister also said 75% of GP practice either have supply or are in the process of getting supply.

Davidson accused the government of moving targets. On January 11, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said all over 80s would be vaccinated by the end of the month. However, on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, John Swinney said the jags would be done by the first week of February.

The First Minister said the target was “refined” because of “our developing understanding of supply".

“There we have it,” Davidson said. “It's not a slip, it's a refinement, but the problems here have been building for some time. And the Scottish Government continues to stand by and furiously repeat that everything is fine, but GPs and the BMA are sounding the alarm and they are raising the red flags, not to be awkward, but because they, and us, and everyone wants this vaccination programme to work and time is of the essence.”

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Sturgeon said if Davidson “doesn't think it is really important and responsible for governments to refine estimates, as knowledge of supplies increases, then I think it will just be another reason why many people across the country are breathing a real sigh of relief that she's not standing here right now".

She pointed out that part of the problem with getting vaccines was to do with Pfizer rephasing its supply over the next few months, leading to fewer doses for the UK as a whole over the next month and a half. 

Sturgeon added: “If Ruth Davidson's whole argument here is, is based on the premise that we've somehow got 700,000 - and remember the UK Government are adamant they don't want us to talk about the total number of doses have been allocated - but let's take what she's saying as fact, then that must mean that, given that we're getting a proportionate population base share, the UK Government for England have got 7 million doses. 

“They haven't done 7 million vaccinations, so presumably they're also sitting on supplies for no reason in the same way that Ruth Davidson is suggesting we are, that would be the logical conclusion of that argument.” 

She added: “It's actually about a complex, really important, but a complex supply chain that everybody is working to make sure gets from the manufacturers to the arms of people across the country as quickly as possible, and we've been successful in making sure that almost all of our most vulnerable care home residents have already got that first dose of vaccine.”