People should “rally round” for their communities during bad weather to make sure the country’s vaccine roll-out can continue.
Weather forecasts across Scotland predict further snow and ice, with the Met Office announcing an amber warning for swathes of the country until Saturday morning.
Large numbers of pensioners are expected to venture out over the coming days to mass vaccination and smaller community centres to receive their first dose of coronavirus vaccine.
Nicola Sturgeon addressed the country at a press briefing on coronavirus on Thursday.
She said: “I’m always concerned when there is severe weather forecast but obviously we want people to be able to get to vaccination centres, and forecasts and reports of heavy snow clearly concern me and make my heart sink a little bit.
“But as part of our resilience preparation, and local authority resilience partnerships are in the lead here, there’s lots of work going into making sure there is gritting and snow clearing where necessary so we keep the vaccination programme running as smoothly as possible, even when there is bad weather.
“But of course logic and common sense tells you that severe weather does have an impact on these things, we just have to try to minimise that as much as possible.”
Chief nursing officer Professor Fiona McQueen added: “Rally round, get out and move that snow.”
The amber weather warning covers central, Tayside and Fife, Grampian, the Highlands and Islands and Argyll and Bute and warns there is a chance of long delays and bus and rail cancellations, power cuts, and that some rural communities might be cut off.
Forecasters say fresh snowfall of 10-15cm is possible at low levels, with 20-30cm accumulating above 150m.
The yellow warning forecasts periods of snow, heavy at times, for much of inland central and northern Scotland through Thursday, Friday and into Saturday, mainly on high ground.
‘Motoring through’ rollout
Scotland had its most successful day of vaccine administration on Wednesday, it was claimed, with Ms Sturgeon announcing the country is “motoring through” the first doses.
More than 695,000 first jabs have been given, with more than 90% of the country’s over 80s in the community having been jabbed.
In the last 24 hours more than 45,000 doses were given, a 52% improvement on last week.
The Scottish Government had taken into account the fact that as much as 5% of the vaccine doses could end up spoiled, but latest figures show that level stands at around 2%, according to the chief nursing officer.
Mass test centres
The first minister acknowledged there would have to be compromise between local accessibility to vaccine sites and prioritising staff at mass centres, after it was announced smaller community locations in Grampian had been closed and staff moved to the P&J Live centre.
Those trade offs between scale and local access are unavoidable, I’m afraid.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
“We have to find the best balance, that’s what we are trying to do through the programme; older, more vulnerable people being vaccinated in their GP practices as close to home as possible, with younger, more mobile groups of the population being directed to the bigger centres which might be a bit further away from home.
“Is it ever going to be perfect, are we going to get it 100% right? There will be people who don’t want to travel, who want to get vaccinated closer to home. It has to be as flexible as possible.
“But if we want, as we do, to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible then these bigger vaccination centres are a critical part of doing this and I am afraid that is just the reality of the situation.”
She continued: “On uptake, I am not complacent about uptake when we go down the age groups. But in a really grim situation let’s hold on to some positivity where we get it. The uptake in the groups we have vaccinated so far is still beyond what we could have hoped for.
“If you told me a couple of weeks ago we would vaccinate 98% of older care home residents I wouldn’t have believed you. If you told me we would be 90% of over 80s, absolutely, I would not have believed you.
“That’s a credit to those doing the vaccination. It is a bigger signal of the willingness and enthusiasm of the public to come forward to be vaccinated.
“I suspect we are going to see that right throughout the programme. People want to be vaccinated against this horrible illness. We want to make it as easy for people as possible but we want the through-put that allows us to do it as quickly as possible.
“Those trade offs between scale and local access are unavoidable, I’m afraid. That’s just a reality I am going to have to explain to people.”