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First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon responds to criticism over the speed of the vaccine rollout

Nicola Sturgeon appeared on Good Morning Britain amid Scotland facing criticism over the speed of its vaccine rollout.

38,000 vaccinations were administered yesterday in Scotland but the supply had been slower up until that point.

Speaking to Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard, she said: "Firstly we have seen the rate of vaccination speed up this week, in the last couple of days we had record numbers carried out on a daily basis but also proportionately we have been vaccinated at a higher rate than England so we are seeing real pace in the programme now. 

"What we have done in the early stages of the vaccination programme, rightly or wrongly, people can make their own judgement, is focus on getting as high an uptake as possible in the most vulnerable groups, so in care homes we have now vaccinated, not just offered the vaccine, but vaccinated 98% of older care home residents and in the over 80s population we are at about 90% uptake."

"It takes longer, particularly in care homes, to do that but having got these quite extraordinary uptake levels, which I would guess are probably the highest uptake levels in these groups across the UK, we are now speeding up in the younger age groups and we are working in the over 70s now, and we are firmly on track to meet the target of having vaccinated all over 70s and everybody in what is called the clinically extremely vulnerable group by the middle of February," she continued.

After Scotland’s National Clinical Director blamed GP surgeries being closed for low vaccination rates on Sundays, Sturgeon said: “We have recognised that we seem to be having a dip in the vaccination rate on Sundays and we have been taking action to try and resolve that. Let me very clear this is a seven day a week vaccination programme… Not all of the vaccines are being done through GP surgeries, they are, in the main, vaccinating the older more vulnerable patients because it makes sense for them to go to the GP surgeries, we have mass vaccination centres or community vaccination hubs which are taking much more of the strain of the vaccination programme.

Sturgeon added: "Monday and Tuesday we vaccinated a record number over a 24 hour period and this week to date we have probably, proportionately, we have vaccinated about 30% more than is the case in England, so we are catching up with that. It is really important to do this as fast as possible but in the early stages of the programme we haven’t just been going for overall numbers, we have deliberately been trying to maximise uptake in these most vulnerable groups…"

On her announcement that Scottish schools will return before those in England, despite the R rate in Scotland being similar to England’s, she said: “Your point about the R rate is right but the R rate is only one indicator. Our infection levels are lower, incidence and prevalence of the infection are lower than in England and in other UK nations… secondly, we are taking a very, very gradual and phased approach here. So on 22nd February, hopefully, what we will see are pre-school age children return to early years education, primaries 1,2,3 in Scotland return to full-time education and a very, very small number of senior phase pupils who will be in school for practical coursework that is important for the certification of the qualification… that will not exceed about five to eight percent of the secondary school rule.”

Asked if she is introducing extra measures, like getting teachers vaccinated, she said: “In terms of the order of priority of vaccine, we all take the advice of the JCVI, now many teachers will be vaccinated in that priority list because of their age or more likely underlying health conditions… if we were to prioritising healthier groups at the stage, we would be deprioritising people who really were clinically vulnerable… There is also the fact that we don’t yet know, even though the early indications are good,  the impact of the vaccine on transmissions, so it is not the case that just because we have vaccinated teachers, that would take away transmission possibilities in schools…There is lots of work to make schools as safe as possible."

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