Left behind: the SNP’s vaccination failings

Last December, a huge sense of relief and hope swept across the country as 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 jag.


Since then, nearly 10 million people in the UK have received their first dose of a vaccine as we power ahead with a mass programme to reach the most vulnerable in society.


The efforts of doctors, nurses, medics, soldiers and delivery drivers in facilitating this have been heroic, carrying us all towards a brighter future when restrictions can be lifted.


As part of the UK, we have benefitted from being the first country to approve the vaccines, the expertise in Oxford which led to the development of a jag that can be mass produced, and the professionalism of our Armed Forces in assisting with the huge logistical challenge.


But with lockdown still in place and Covid still claiming lives, there is growing anxiety in Scotland about the glacial pace of the vaccination roll-out here. In typically ill-judged remarks, SNP Minister Mike ‘Reckless’ Russell recently claimed that raising concerns about the programme is causing 'distress' for older people.


No, Mike, what is causing distress is their anxious wait for an appointment. An early analysis up to January 17 found that only 13.1 per cent of over-80s have received their first vaccine in Scotland, compared to an average of 56.3 per cent in England, 44.6 per cent in Northern Ireland and 23.9 per cent in Wales.


For the SNP, it was a case of ‘nothing to see here’.


Nicola Sturgeon likes to repeatedly state she ‘won’t get everything right’ in her handling of her pandemic – but avoids explaining what she has got wrong. It’s nothing more than a soundbite for her, and the reality is she will always try to spin herself out of a bad situation.


So she said the figures reflected the Scottish Government’s decision to prioritise care home residents over the general population.


(Inconveniently, so too did Wales, which still far outperformed Scotland’s response when it comes to the wider population).


The expectation was created that Scotland would soon catch up.


But on Sunday, January 24, only 11,364 people were vaccinated in Scotland - the lowest daily figure of recent weeks.


And then that fell to a new low of only 9,628 people last Sunday.


Opposition pressure has forced the SNP to belatedly explore ways to speed up the vaccination programme.


Jags will be administered seven days a week, using facilities such as the Louisa Jordan hospital in Glasgow’s SEC.


But vaccination hubs across England have already been operating on a seven-day basis for several weeks.


And the SNP still appears reluctant to tap into every available resource, with it being reported that more British Army soldiers are ready and waiting to assist if the Scottish Government asks.


To make matters worse, the number of ‘mass vaccination centres’ supposed to administer 20,000 doses a week has been halved amid confusion caused by the Health Secretary.


In November, we were told that over 1million Scots would be vaccinated by the end of January.


We’re now into February, and the latest figures show that only 575,000 people in Scotland have had their first jag - way behind our population share of the UK to receive a first dose, which stands at 9.3million.


A mass vaccination programme is the only way we get through this national crisis.


This must be the priority for ministers – not dreaming up new ways to divide Scotland with another referendum on leaving the UK.


It’s time for the Scottish government to step up and deliver for the people of Scotland.


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