Frustrated GPs are being forced to cancel patients' Covid vaccination appointments thanks to lack of supply despite hundreds of thousands of doses lying unused, Nicola Sturgeon has been warned.
Declaring the roll-out was going to plan, the First Minister said around 100,000 people per week were now being vaccinated in Scotland and all over-80s would be reached by the start of February.
Between 15 and 20 per cent of Scots aged over 80 have been vaccinated so far, compared to more than half in England, but Ms Sturgeon said care homes had nearly been completed and the roll-out would now accelerate.
But she was forced to deny her government is failing to distribute the vaccine to GPs quickly enough after it emerged only 284,582 doses out of Scotland's allocation of 717,000 had been administered.
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Challenged repeatedly to explain why GPs were running out when more than 400,000 doses were unused, she hit out at the UK Government for leaking the figure and accused it of having a "hissy fit" over her administration publishing confidential supply statistics last week.
However, Dr Andrew Buist, who chairs the British Medical Association's Scottish GP committee, said family doctors were frustrated by the "bumpy" supply and they were being kept in the dark over why they had not received shipments.
He said: "The workforce is there and that's why it's so incredibly frustrating when the patients want the vaccine, we're very keen to give it to our patients but we just don't have the vaccine in our fridge."
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said GPs in his Fife constituency had been forced to cancel vaccination appointments because they had not been provided with the necessary supply.
Last week the Health Secretary admitted that 200,000 doses were stuck in storage in England. This week we discover that number may have doubled to 400,000.
But the government continues to blame the manufacturers instead of sorting its own distribution system. pic.twitter.com/nty6wouR9K
— Willie Rennie (@willie_rennie) January 19, 2021
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tories' Holyrood leader, reeled off a list of Scots aged over 80 and some over 90 whose families had contacted her over them not being vaccinated.
Rhoda Grant, a Labour MSP, said people on Mull had been told they would not get any vaccine until the start of next month and Tory John Scott said it was a "postcode lottery" in his Ayr seat.
The row broke out after official figures disclosed a further 19,591 people were given their first dose on Monday, the largest daily figure recorded in Scotland so far after a dip last weekend.
Ms Sturgeon said the vaccination rate was lower in Scotland than England as her government had focused more on care homes, which take longer than the over-80s but are "likely to have the biggest and most immediate impact on saving lives."
More than 90 per cent of Scottish care home residents have been vaccinated and more than 70 per cent of staff.
But she said focusing on care homes was "unlikely in the immediate future to have a significant impact" on reducing Scotland's Covid case numbers.
Although the majority of the adult population are due to be vaccinated in the next three months, she said that physical distancing and face coverings "are likely to be necessary for some time yet."
Only half of England's residents have been vaccinated but the Telegraph has disclosed that UK ministers were discussing acclerated plans to complete all care homes early next week.
England's roll-out slowed markedly in Tuesday, with only 167,150 doses administered, barely half the total completed last Friday.
However, England now has 17 mass vaccination centres compared to only one in Scotland, the NHS Louisa Jordan temporary hospital in Glasgow.
Dr Buist said Scotland has “done very well” vaccinating care home residents, but has “not done so well in vaccinating the over 80 group”.
He said: “Patients see what is happening around the UK, they get anxious, practices are getting frustrated, it makes it difficult to plan, and clearly vaccine supply has been a bit bumpy.
"My question is very simple: will we get the (Oxford) AstraZeneca vaccine in time to meet this challenge?”
He added: “I have asked the question of all the appropriate people: why are we not getting the vaccine? I’m not really following the answer."
Dr Buist proposed that GPs should be allowed to use the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored in industrial freezers while transported.
Presiding Officer, may I present this dead cat https://t.co/kHqc4gdzyh
— Chris Musson (@ChrisMusson) January 19, 2021
Mr Rennie, the North East Fife MSP, said: "Local people are very anxious and increasingly frustrated about the sluggish pace of the vaccination programme.
“Many are distressed that appointments have been cancelled because the GPs have run out of supplies."
Ms Davidson said: "Hundreds of thousands of doses are at the SNP Government's disposal. GPs across Scotland and the BMA are saying the vaccines are not reaching them quickly enough.
"Instead of answering these serious questions from vulnerable patients, medical leaders and GPs, Nicola Sturgeon decided to go on a bizarre rant at the UK Government."
But Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: "The vaccination programme is progressing well and it is picking up pace.
"We are now vaccinating approximately 100,000 people a week. That number will increase progressively from here on and – assuming we receive the supplies we expect – we are on track to be vaccinating 400,000 people a week by the end of February."
She repeated her key targets to vaccinate all over-70s by mid-February, all over-65s by the start of March and all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable by early May.
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