Scotland’s vaccine deployment plan taken down after UK ministers’ concerns

Scotland’s deployment plan for coronavirus vaccination has been taken offline after the UK Government raised concerns that it disclosed too much detail about supplies.

Nicola Sturgeon said her Government’s plan, which was published on Wednesday evening, was taken down due to issues with “commercial confidentiality”.

The Scottish Government’s 16-page document set out the supply of vaccine from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna that it expects to receive each week – with targets to vaccinate 400,000 people per week from the end of February.

The detail on supply figures is understood to have angered ministers in London, who said publication of the UK’s numbers would lead to suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.

Nicola Sturgeon
The First Minister was asked about the plan at the daily coronavirus briefing (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

The First Minister was asked about the plan at the coronavirus briefing on Thursday.

She said: “It’s been temporarily taken off the website.

“The UK Government have raised concerns about the level of information we included in that on the projected supply of vaccine.

“I think it is important to be very transparent around all aspects of this, to be clear on the targets we are setting for the numbers of people vaccinated.”

She continued: “The UK Government has got some commercial confidentiality concerns about that so we’re having a discussion with them about what can be published.”

The targets around vaccination of the clinical priority groups remained the same, she said.

Asked if she agreed that vaccine suppliers would be put under pressure, she said: “The UK Government have been talking for a long time about the supplies that they have managed to secure so, you know, these are estimates of the supplies that have been secured.

“So I’m not convinced, but I think it would be for UK Government ministers to talk more about the basis of their concern.”

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, updated MSPs on the vaccine plan earlier on Wednesday but the full document was not published until later in the day.

A senior UK Government source told the PA news agency: “Publication of numbers like these risks suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.

“These vaccines are a finite resource and as we have said throughout – supply is the limiting step.”

The delivery plan set out the steps to vaccinate 4.5 million Scots as quickly as possible.

It also included details of planned mass vaccination sites around Scotland.

Some of these are: NHS Louisa Jordan, Glasgow; Edinburgh International Conference Centre; Pyramids Business Park, Bathgate; Queen Margaret University, Musselburgh; P&J Live at TECA, Aberdeen; Ravenscraig Sports Facility, Motherwell.

Earlier on Thursday, Scotland’s national clinical director said wastage levels for the vaccine are likely to be lower than 5%.

He told the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 Committee: “We have a rounded figure of around 5% for wastage – that’s what we use for the flu vaccine, that’s what the WHO (World Health Organisation) says is the rough global average.

“It’s difficult to be sure, of course. I would absolutely hope we would get it down below that.

“In the flu vaccine, we do get it significantly below that, but for planning purposes it is traditional to talk about a 5% wastage.”