Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of failing to provide a seven-day Covid vaccination programme after a record low number of Scots were treated on Sunday despite around 400,000 doses lying unused.
The First Minister disclosed that a further 11,364 people were given their first dose on Sunday, less than half the total the previous day and the smallest daily figure reported since the roll-out started.
Ms Sturgeon blamed a "data lag" for the small Scottish total and disclosed the proportion of over-80s vaccinated in Scotland had increased from 34 per cent to 46 per cent since Friday.
But Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, said the figure across the UK was 78.7 per cent, with around 2.5 million Britons getting the jab last week at a rate of more than 250 per minute.
Speaking ahead of a visit north of the Border this week by Boris Johnson, Mr Hancock said Scotland had received more vaccine per person than anywhere else in the world apart from Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
With Ms Sturgeon threatening a wildcat independence referendum if she wins a majority in May's Holyrood election, he said the roll-out showed "what the UK can do when we pull together" in difficult times.
Although the number of people vaccinated on Sunday in England also fell sharply, the roll-out south of the Border was still nearly twice as fast.
It is understood the UK Government has now passed more than 800,000 doses to the SNP administration in Scotland, but only 415,402 had been administered as of yesterday morning.
I’m very proud that as of last night, we’ve vaccinated 78.7% of all over-80s
That’s almost 4 IN 5 of everyone aged over 80 pic.twitter.com/uoIxfdjLbd
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) January 25, 2021
Ms Sturgeon disclosed her government was examining a pilot scheme for 24/7 vaccinations but Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said the SNP was failing to even deliver a "seven-day service" and argued "the latest evidence shows it's a shambles over the weekend."
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said Ms Sturgeon's "excuses" were "wearing very thin" and questioned why "are GPs being deprived of the vaccines when they are ready to get on with the job."
The First Minister again blamed her decision to focus more on care homes, which take longer to vaccinate, but there was increasing scepticism that this explained the huge cross-Border disparity in the over-80 figures.
Special health board teams have been vaccinating care home residents, who are expected to be completed in the next few days, while GPs have been focused on over-80s in the community.
The Telegraph disclosed last week that GPs want to accelerate the slow roll-out by bypassing health boards and ordering their stocks themselves.
The British Medical Association said supply remained unreliable and some family doctors were still to receive their first doses.
Overall, 10.2 per cent of people in England have now received their first dose compared to 8.6 per cent in Wales, 8.4 per cent in Northern Ireland and 7.6 per cent in Scotland.
But, speaking at her daily Covid briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: "We have a seven-day programme that will continue to develop as more and larger-scale sites come on stream.
“We were also having discussions about this on Friday; looking at piloting 24/7 arrangements so that people – particularly when we get into the wider groups of the population – have choices about the time that they turn up for vaccines.”
Pressed on the sharp drop in vaccinations on Sundays, she said: "There may still just be an issue with a lag in the data from weekends coming into Monday's figures but I'll look into that a little bit more."
Ms Sturgeon 24/7 pilot schemes, which have already started in England, would likely have "the biggest impact" with younger age groups than are currently getting the vaccine.
Should stress that Nicola Sturgeon claims Scotland's lower rate is due to disproportionate initial focus on "more labour-intensive” care homes (circa 35k people). We should reach a point soon where 4 nations near completion of care home 1st doses.. then will be easier to compare https://t.co/HTIahDdIFX
— Chris Musson (@ChrisMusson) January 25, 2021
But Mr Ross said: "We've warned the SNP's vaccine rollout has been sluggish for some time but the latest evidence shows it's a shambles over the weekend.
"They are failing to deliver the seven-day service that was promised, and GPs are still not getting supplies quickly enough from the SNP."
He said the SNP's decision to unveil both a "roadmap" and "task force" to separate Scotland from the UK were "a reckless distraction from the task at hand and it's impacting the vaccine roll-out."
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