Is Scotland 'picking up pace' on vaccinations?

By Paul Hastie
BBC Scotland

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The UK has embarked on the most ambitious public health campaign in NHS history - vaccinating tens of millions of adults against the potentially deadly Covid-19 virus.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all set targets to immunise the most at risk first. The common pledge is that by mid-February, all those aged 70 and over will have been offered the first of two injections.

So, with just one week of January left, what do we know about the vaccine rollout?

The latest Scottish Covid vaccination figures show 46% of people aged 80 and over have received their first dose. And the most recently published figure for England reports that 56.3% of the over-80s group have been vaccinated. However, those two percentages do not paint the most up-to-date picture.

While Scotland's numbers show a daily breakdown on who has had the jab, the English figures come from a weekly report.

This make it difficult to compare between the four UK nations, and explains why politicians often cite vaccine numbers that don't match the most recently published data.

For example, UK government Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Monday's teatime briefing that 78.7% of over-80s had received a first vaccine.

This is much higher than the 56.3% "official" published figure from NHS England.

Mr Hancock said that the UK had a better supply of the vaccines than "nearly every other country in the world" and it was a "magnificent feat" by the NHS that three quarters of all over 80s had been vaccinated. He added that "three-quarters of care homes" in England had been covered in the rollout. Mr Hancock has lauded the programme so far but he admitted that the "rate-limiting factor is supply, and supply is tight".

Public Health Scotland also publishes a weekly report with a full vaccination breakdown and from Monday 25 January it is also highlighting the daily statistics about the priority vaccination groups.

'Absolutely confident in meeting target'

On Monday, Ms Sturgeon said 95% of care home residents and 95% of frontline care workers had received the first of their two jabs. However, she acknowledged the lower percentage of over-80s in the community being vaccinated.

She explained: "I have set out many times why in focusing on care homes first we are at a slightly lower proportion of over-80s but that is picking up pace now, and I am absolutely confident in meeting the targets that we have set.

"So, yes I am confident and assured around the planning of this but I am not complacent about it - we continue to make sure that we are, on a daily basis, taking the decisions and supporting the wider service to get this programme administered as quickly as possible.

"This is the most important thing the government is doing at the moment."

When Scotland's vaccination programme got under way on Monday, 14 December it "very deliberately" set out to target care homes, care home workers and NHS staff.

The policy was designed to focus on the most vulnerable and was in line with the priority list compiled by the JCVI, which advises on vaccine rollout across the UK.

According to the latest figures, about 116,000 of 270,000 people in the over-80s group have been given their first dose of the vaccine.

This means that about 77,000 people a week will need to be vaccinated over the next two weeks to meet the 5 February target.

Another 474,000 people between 70 and 80 will need to be vaccinated by a week later.

Daily figures for Monday 25 January also show that England has vaccinated 12.9% of the total adult population with the first dose and Scotland has so far reached 9.4%.

How many over-80s have been reached?

Daily vaccination figures do not include a breakdown of the over-80s group across all UK nations. England provides these detailed statistics only in a weekly report.

The latest figures show:

  • Scotland - 80 and over - 115,882 (46% of the age group) had received their first dose by Monday 25 January
  • England - 80 and over - 1,685,937 (56.3% of the age group) had received their first dose by Sunday 17 January
  • Northern Ireland - 80 and over - 39,254 (55% of the age group) received by their first dose by Thursday 21 January
  • Wales - 80 and over - 88,005 (48.1% of the age group) received by their first dose by Monday 25 January

Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland is on track for all over-80s to have been offered the first dose by the end of the first week in February.

Who else has been vaccinated?

In Scotland people under 50 account for almost half of vaccinations administered up to Sunday 17 January (46.6%).

Three-quarters of those vaccinated were are female, perhaps reflecting the make-up of the staff in the NHS and care homes.

As of Monday 25 January, 218,985 vaccinations have gone to health care workers and 36,108 to care home staff.

What other targets are there?

When the most at risk are vaccinated the immunisation programme will move to younger members of society. The Scottish government's vaccine deployment plan dates include:

By early March:

  • All those over 65 will have had a first dose

By early May:

  • all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  • all those 50 years of age and over.

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