Scotland is on course to hit the one million vaccine milestone this week with uptake surpassing expectations, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says.
Nicola Sturgeon revealed the number of people taking up the vaccine is “way beyond anything that we could have dared hope for just a few weeks ago” and is a “real tribute to the enthusiasm and the willingness of people across the country” to beat the virus.
A total of 866,823 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, an increase of 27,557 on Sunday and three times the number vaccinated last Sunday.
Around 80,000 people received a first dose of the vaccine over the weekend, more than double the figure of the previous weekend.
Over the course of this week, the Scottish Government expect to hit the milestone of vaccinating one million people across Scotland and is now accelerating vaccination for those aged 65 to 69.
Ms Sturgeon claims Scotland’s vaccination programme “undoubtedly picked up pace considerably over the course of the last week” and was going “exceptionally well”.
She added: “To see such large numbers, particularly in the groups most clinically vulnerable, being vaccinated is extremely encouraging.”
In the past seven days, more than 290,000 people have received their first dose, around 130,000 more than were vaccinated the previous week.
However, the number vaccinated on Sundays continues to be significantly lower than on Saturdays – this week there was a 25,282 drop between Saturday and Sunday, down around 48%.
This follows from a 58% fall between Saturday and Sunday the previous week and 51% the week before that.
Questioned on the drop between Saturday and Sunday, Ms Sturgeon said it is “just about health boards making sure they book their capacity on a Sunday”.
South African variant
On the South African variant and questions raised over the effectiveness of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Ms Sturgeon said people “should have confidence in the vaccine”.
She added that the small trial, of around 2,000 people, had provided early data that show limited efficacy for mild to moderate disease but it “hasn’t been possible to ascertain the impact on severe disease and hospitalisation”.
There are currently five confirmed and one probable case of the South African variant in Scotland, with all associated with travel rather than community transmission.
Ms Sturgeon warned anyone who has received the first dose of the vaccine that it takes around two to three weeks to begin to have a protective effective and urged them to stick to the lockdown restrictions.
She added: “Even then we don’t know the vaccine will stop you from getting Covid-19 or transmitting it to someone else, although there is growing evidence that vaccination does have some impact on transmission.”
The first minister said a total of 99.6% of residents in older care homes has received a first jab, which is a “scale of uptake which none of us really believed would be possible”.
She also revealed that more than 95% of over 80-year-olds living in the community have had their first dose of a vaccine and almost 67% of people aged 75-79 and 29% of people aged 70-75 have received their first injection.
Ms Sturgeon also used her Covid-19 briefing to announce an expansion of targeted community testing using rural fire stations to a total of 21 locations in the coming weeks.
A pilot programme has been running in recent weeks in the NHS Highland area, with fire stations in Thurso and Lochgilphead used as testing bases.
The first minister said: “That saves local residents from either having to wait for a home testing kit to arrive or having to wait until there’s a mobile testing centre in their area or, alternatively, from having to drive quite a distance to a permanent testing centre.”
Numbers in hospital falling
A total of five deaths of coronavirus patients in Scotland have been recorded in the past 24 hours, along with 928 new cases, Ms Sturgeon said.
The death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 6,443.
The daily test positivity rate is 6.6%, down from 6.9% when 584 new cases were recorded.
There are 1,672 people in hospital confirmed to have Covid-19, down 38 in the last 24 hours.
The first minister said this has fallen by more than 280 over the past week, which is “positive but is still significantly above the peak that we saw last spring”.