'Alarming' Covid-19 vaccine disparities in 'postcode lottery' across local Scottish areas

Disparities in Covid-19 vaccination coverage between local authority areas have been branded a “postcode lottery” as new figures have revealed percentages of vaccination among age groups in each area.

Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 7:00 am

As of April 1, there was a gap of more than 50 percentage points between different areas in some age groups.

In the 50-54 group, just 37 per cent had received a jag in East Renfrewshire, compared to 93 per cent in South Lanarkshire.

Scottish Labour health and social care spokesperson Jackie Baillie called the disparity in figures “alarming”.

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The main entrance to the coronavirus mass vaccine centre at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Picture date: Monday February 1, 2021.

She highlighted “challenges” in Scotland’s biggest cities, with 41 per cent of those aged 50 to 54 in Edinburgh having received a first dose, compared to 63 per cent as the national average.

Across all age groups, 47 per cent of those in NHS Lothian have received a first dose. In the Western Isles, with the highest coverage, this figure is 75 per cent.

"While the vaccine programme is going well overall, these are alarming figures,” Ms Baillie said.

"We cannot have a postcode lottery with something as crucial as a life-saving vaccine.

"Vaccination teams across the country are working tirelessly to deliver the programme, but we must ensure that all health boards have the vaccine supply and resources they need.

"With the target for vaccinating everyone over 50 fast approaching, the SNP need to get moving quickly to ensure no areas are left behind."

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton blamed the disparities on “poor planning” from the Scottish Government and warned that it was putting lives at risk.

"Covid-19 does not make postcode exceptions and the vaccine rollout shouldn't either,” he said.

"The vaccine is currently our best chance out of this pandemic. Everyone should have equal access to it.

"The SNP's poor handling of the pandemic continues and it endangers the health and lives of our citizens. The vaccine rollout is just not moving fast enough in certain areas, especially Edinburgh. This is the fault of poor planning by the government, not the efforts of our brave NHS workers who are doing wonders.”

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Professor Alex McMahon, executive director for nursing, midwifery and allied healthcare professionals at NHS Lothian, said variation between different areas “is due to a range of factors including vaccine supply levels, overall population demographics and when vaccinations began for each priority group”.

Prof McMahon said: “Population demographics will have a direct effect on an area’s overall vaccination rate. In areas with a high population under the age of 50, such as Lothian, the overall rate of vaccination may appear lower than an area with a comparatively higher proportion of over 50s, despite a similar number of vaccines being delivered."

An SNP spokesperson said: "We are rolling out the vaccine as quickly as supply allows and no two council areas are the same in terms of the challenges on their geography and the demographic make-up of their population.

"Our NHS is rolling out vaccines swiftly to all of the priority groups across Scotland. We have confidence that our NHS vaccination programme is on target to offer a first vaccination to all those in the phase one priority groups by the middle of April."

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