Scotland will have to scale back its coronavirus vaccination programme over the next two weeks as supplies into the UK dip, Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said.
She said Scotland should hit its target of vaccinating 400,000 adults a week ahead of schedule this week, but the programme will then “need to scale back a bit”.
There will be a drop in supply across all four nations of the UK, Ms Freeman said, which is being caused by work being carried out by Pfizer – the manufacturer of one of the approved vaccines.
The company is having to temporarily reduce output as part of an overall effort to increase manufacturing capacity amid worldwide demand for vaccines.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday that in the “second part of February”, it is expected vaccine supplies will “slightly dip for a period”.
That came after she said a “whopping” total of 61,299 vaccinations were given on Monday – the highest daily figure in Scotland to date.
Ms Freeman told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday: “This is about the supply into the UK, it is not about distribution around the UK. So it will affect all four nations of the UK.
“That will reduce our expected supply next week and the week after by about somewhere between 120,000 and 190,000 doses a week overall over the two vaccines.
“And what that means then is we need to scale back on the pace we have reached this week – we will reach over 400,000 doses this week, which is a couple of weeks earlier than we said we would. But we will need to scale back a bit.
“We are working that through and then of course supplies start coming in again.”
She stressed the Scottish Government is “still confident” it will meet targets set for vaccinating all those aged over 70 by Monday, as well as the goal of vaccinating those aged 65 and above by early March.
Ms Freeman later spoke to MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 Committee, where she provided more details on the expected drop in supply.
She said: “To manage this reduced supply, from next week, we will need to reduce the numbers of vaccinations to between 150,000 and 200,000 until supply increases, which we hope will be very soon.”
Caroline Lamb, chief executive of NHS Scotland, also told the committee that a further “dip” is expected towards the end of March.