NICOLA Sturgeon has claimed the Scottish Government has not missed a key vaccine deadline – accusing opposition MSPs of misinterpreting the pledge.
The First Minister has insisted the Scottish Government aim was to have offered second doses to people aged 40-49 by Monday, despite pledging in Holyrood more than a month ago they would have been delivered by that deadline.
Ms Sturgeon has accused her opponents of “childish politics” after criticism was levelled at her Government. Opponents pointed to just 75.8% of those in the 40-49 age group being fully vaccinated.
Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, claimed the failure to meet the “flagship target” was “humiliating”.
But the First Minister told the PA news agency the target was to offer first doses, not provide them, by July 26.
However, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs in a coronavirus update to Holyrood that “by July 26, we expect to have given second doses to all 40- to 49-year-olds”.
Speaking at the Police Scotland training college in Tulliallan, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think it’s important we deal in facts and not in childish politics, which at this time is not what we should be doing.
“No vaccination target has been missed and that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact.
“What we set ourselves the target of was offering, by now, the first dose of the vaccine to every adult, everybody over the age of 18, and two doses to the over 40 age group.
“Those targets have been met, everybody in those age groups had those offers and appointments.
“Uptake rates are very high by the standards of any previous vaccination programme.”
However the First Minister’s statement to parliament did not mention offering jags to those aged between 40 and 49, instead saying they hope to have “given” them.
For all people over the age of 40, 90.7% have been vaccinated with both doses, recent figures show.
The First Minister added: “This is a vaccination programme that is outstanding in its success – in the over-40s over 90% are fully vaccinated with two doses.
“But in this country vaccination is not compulsory, rightly in my view, and therefore we still have work to do.
“We’re encouraging those who’ve had an appointment for vaccination who haven’t come forward to now do so.”
Ms Sturgeon’s comments come as her Health Secretary said he remained “confident” that further easing of restrictions would take place on August 9, despite the target being missed.
“The First Minister, of course, is going to update Parliament on August 3, and it is appropriate that she gives the update – I wouldn’t want to pre-empt it, but we’re still confident of being able to move forward,” Humza Yousaf told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme.
He added: “We can say that 91% of over-40s have been fully vaccinated.
“You have to remember, this is a non-mandatory vaccine. To have 91% of over-40s vaccinated in a non-mandatory vaccine is quite simply an astounding achievement and our vaccinators and all those involved in the programme should be thanked for their efforts.
“Anybody suggesting, as the opposition have done, it is humiliating, or a failure, I’m afraid that’s just mischief.”
The Telegraph reported on Monday that vaccination centres may be set up near busy pubs and restaurants in an effort to ensure young people get jagged.
When asked about the reports, Mr Yousaf said: “Every health board has had a very clear directive from me – that they should go out to where young people in particular are, because that’s where the lower uptake is.
“We’ve seen vaccination units go to shopping centres, we’ve seen them on the high street – where of course there would be bars and restaurants – I think in Lothian they had a bus outside Ikea yesterday.
“They’re going to where we hope young people are.
“So yes, going to bars and restaurants, where there’s higher volumes of people, I’ve told health boards – do whatever you can with the pop-up clinics and vaccination units to get to young people and as many people as you can.”
He added: “That’s part of the strategy and there’s no complaints from me to health boards doing that.”