Scotland’s plan for the distribution of coronavirus vaccinations has been taken offline after the UK government raised concerns that the document included sensitive details about vaccine supply.
The plan, which was published on Wednesday evening but removed by Thursday morning, set out the exact numbers of vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna the Scottish government expected to receive on a weekly basis up to the end of May, revealing two weeks when no AstraZeneca vaccine would be available.
The UK government is reportedly furious at the publication of such detailed figures, amid anxieties it could lead to suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson refused to give any details of how many doses the UK has, or how they will be allocated. “It’s obviously the case that vaccines are in high demand throughout the world, and it’s been the case throughout that we haven’t provided a detailed commentary on the size of our supplies or the detailed logistics around them. That will remain the case.”
The government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19 in the UK. The list is:
1 All those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers.
2 All those 75 and over.
3 All those 70 and over.
4 All those 65 and over.
5 Adults under 65 at high at risk of serious disease and mortality from Covid-19.
6 Adults under 65 at moderate risk of at risk of serious disease and mortality from Covid-19.
7 All those 60 and over.
8 All those 55 and over.
9 All those 50 and over.
10 Rest of the population.
But Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, responded to the row at her lunchtime briefing by arguing that her government was acting with transparency: “At the weekend I was reading UK government sources criticising the Scottish government for not going fast enough, saying: ‘Oh, they’ve got more supply than they are letting on.’ What we’ve tried to do is put it out there so people can judge.”
Sturgeon told her daily briefing on Thursday that the plan had been taken down “temporarily” because of concerns raised by UK ministers around “commercial confidentiality”.
Asked if she agreed that vaccine suppliers could be put under pressure, she said: “The UK government have been talking for a long time about the supplies that they have managed to secure so, you know, these are estimates of the supplies that have been secured. So I’m not convinced, but I think it would be for UK government ministers to talk more about the basis of their concern.”
The Scottish government has been accused of a “sluggish” initial deployment of the vaccine by opposition parties and a lack of clarity around how Scotland’s allocation was being used. It has set a target of vaccinating 400,000 people a week from the end of February.
The Scottish health secretary, Jeane Freeman, confirmed on Wednesday that the total Scottish vaccine allocation so far was 562,125 doses. Of those, 365,000 doses have arrived in Scottish vaccination centres or are with health boards or general practitioners, while the rest are “either in transit or in storage”.
Questions have been raised about why so many vaccines remain unavailable for immediate use and whether the infrastructure is in place to meet the latest targets. All over-80s are due to be vaccinated by the first week in February and all over-65s plus the clinically extremely vulnerable by the beginning of March, a total of about 1.4m people.
As of Wednesday morning, 191,965 people in Scotland had received their first dose of the vaccine and 2,990 their second dose, including just over 80% of residents and more than half of staff in “older adult” care homes and about half of frontline NHS and social care staff.