The Health Secretary has said she is “as confident as I can be” that Scotland’s coronavirus vaccination programme can begin next month if a vaccine is approved.
Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government is ready to roll out its vaccination programme from December and the vaccine will ultimately be available to everyone aged over 18 in Scotland, around 4.45 million people.
She said the Pfizer vaccine is most likely to be the first of the vaccines to be approved and said that any inoculation will have gone through the same rigorous safety checks as anything else despite the speed at which it has been developed.
In an interview on BBC Scotland, Ms Freeman was asked how confident she is that the vaccination programme can definitely begin next month.
She replied: “I’m as confident as I can be, assuming that the vaccine does arrive, that it is approved, what we have done is we have planned on the basis that the vaccine will be with us in December.
“That means that we are ready as soon as it arrives and if it is approved and the doses arrive the first week in December then we are ready.
“If the approval bodies need any more evidence from Pfizer and that means it takes a wee bit longer, then we will still be ready when the approval comes through.”
Asked what percentage of the population would need to be vaccinated, she said: “There is not an exact number we’ve been given by our scientists or clinical advisers.
“The intention is to vaccinate as many people as we can and we will be putting out a lot of information with people to reassure them on its safety and I think we will get a big response from people in Scotland.”
The first phase of vaccines will be offered to frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, those over 80 and people delivering the vaccination programme.
Over-65s and those at “additional clinical risk” are next in line to be prioritised for vaccination, based on the current Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance.
Ms Freeman said that the Covid-19 vaccination programme will be a national programme so it will not be a case of 14 health boards each with their own delivery plan.
She said: “There will be one national vaccination programme but delivered locally, so that it makes sense for the different geographical challenges of Scotland.”
The Health Secretary estimated more than 2,000 staff will be needed as vaccinators or support workers by January and has announced an agreement with the British Medical Association on terms and conditions for GP involvement in a vaccination programme.
She said the Army will also help with the logistics side of the programme.