The First Minister has said Scotland’s vaccine rollout is “working well” despite criticism of the system.
At First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon announced 649,262 people in Scotland had received the first dose of the vaccine, with 38,484 being given out in the past 24 hours.
On Monday and Tuesday, more than 70,000 people were given their first dose, according to Scottish Government figures, as mass vaccination centres in Edinburgh and Aberdeen opened.
The figure given on Wednesday represented a 59% increase in the number of vaccinations given out compared with the same day last week.
Ms Sturgeon praised the rollout, as well as members of the public who have accepted invitations for vaccination and the healthcare workers running inoculation centres across the country.
“This vaccination is going well, it’s going well because of the efforts of people across the country but it’s also going well because of the willingness of the public to come forward in such huge numbers to be vaccinated and I’m very grateful to them for that,” the First Minister said.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that 98% of older people in care homes had received their first dose, as well as 87% of those over the age of 80.
More than a quarter (28%) between the ages of 70 and 79 have also received their first dose, the First Minister said.
Scottish ministers have come under fire in recent weeks as the vaccine rollout began for a perceived lack of pace, with Tory Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson describing it as “slow, stuttering and lagging way behind the rest of the UK” on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack wrote to the First Minister offering extra help from the armed forces in the vaccine rollout.
When asked by Ms Davidson about the offer, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was already receiving support from the services to tackle the pandemic.
“Any help that the armed forces give to Scotland… it’s not a favour from the Secretary of State for Scotland – it’s our armed forces that the people of Scotland pay for through their taxes,” the First Minister said.
“So let’s forget the suggestion that it’s somehow the UK Government doing Scotland a favour.”
The First Minister said the Scottish Government will continue to accept help from the Armed Forces where appropriate.
The MoD later announced the military is to start administering the coronavirus vaccine in Scotland for the first time, with 57 Army medics and management deploying on Thursday to assist health boards.
They will make up a “vaccine quick reaction force” which will see five teams of 10 able to deploy across Scotland at short notice.
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie warned of a “postcode lottery” in the vaccination rollout.
After outlining cases brought to her attention of people not being told when they will receive their first dose, she told the First Minister: “These examples aren’t a one-off but they are part of a growing postcode lottery in vaccine rollout, and it’s slowing Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19.
“The weekly Public Health Scotland figures show a huge variation across the country in the proportion of the population receiving the vaccine.”
But Ms Sturgeon said: “People are not being penalised because of where they live.
“There will be differences in speed because of geographies, because of how different health boards are organising this to take account of the differences between urban areas and rural areas, the different sizes of communities, but all health boards are making progress.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also challenged the First Minister on the vaccination process, saying it was taking a senior professional in the NHS weeks to be trained to give the jabs.
He said that despite 30 years’ experience, the health worker was “still required to go through (an) extensive NHS recruitment process all over again”.
Mr Rennie demanded: “I want to know why it is taking six weeks to get experienced NHS staff ready to vaccinate?”
Ms Sturgeon told him there were already more than 9,000 registered coronavirus vaccinators in Scotland.
She said as Scotland works towards the target of doing 400,000 jabs a week by the end of this month, the authorities had “already identified and have registered the numbers we need to do this programme at the scale we need to do it”.