'Political will' to vaccinate young people in Scotland as quickly as possible will not disappear, says Jeane Freeman
Young people will not be waiting for their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as Scotland prioritises the second jag for older Scots, the health secretary has said.
Jeane Freeman said the political will to ensure all adult Scots, regardless of their age, received their vaccinations as quickly as possible would not go away as more of the population becomes protected from the virus.
The health secretary was answering questions about the vaccination rollout during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Friday.
Ms Freeman said the “political will” to vaccinate all Scots as quickly as possible would “absolutely not disappear”, in response to a question asking whether young Scots would be waiting for their vaccines for longer as the pressure to keep up the pace of the vaccination programme lessens.
She said: “Political will absolutely not disappear, from this government or any future government that comes into being after the elections in May.
"The political will is absolutely there to vaccinate all adults 18 and over.
"Where we are having a bit of thinking is whether or not the information and promotional work to encourage people to come forward for vaccination may need to be retailored to suit younger age groups and we may use more digital to do that.
"As soon as we get supplies, we have the infrastructures, the vaccinators, the sites, the systems to get that vaccine into somebody’s arm as quickly as we possibly can and we have the absolute commitment to do that.
"Supplies are the only risk limiting factor that we are dealing with.”
Ms Freeman was also asked whether second doses for older people would be prioritised over first doses to ensure no-one waits more than 12 weeks for their final jag as the vaccination programme ramps up.
Such a situation could see younger people’s first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine delayed to ensure the delivery of second doses.
Ms Freeman said: "As long as the supplies come forward to allow us to do both, we will do both.
"At the moment we have no reason to expect that we will not have the supplies needed to increase the numbers of people coming through for their second dose of the vaccine, whilst we also prioritise and vaccinate those on the JCVI group.
"By the time we get to the middle of April we will be well on our way in reaching that 4.5 million number and we will be delivering the second dose as well.
"The only limiter on any of that is the supply coming through and at this point. We have no reason to expect that it won’t come through on time.”
Asked if the Scottish Government had contingency plans which would see second doses prioritised, Ms Freeman said there was “no reason” for any government in the UK to believe that supplies will not come forward to allow both first and second doses to be delivered.
She said: “I really don’t want the message going to the younger age group that somehow their appointments or vaccinations are in doubt at any point.
"No it’s not, it’s not in doubt at this stage.
"We have no reason to believe we won’t have the supplies that allow us to do both.”