THE number of mass vaccination centres intended to administer 20,000 Covid doses a week in Scotland has been halved, Jeane Freeman has admitted.
The health secretary said she now considered only three of the six planned locations as mass centres, while the rest were “large community sites”, capable of fewer jabs.
“Let’s not dance on the head of a pin about the number,” she said.
Ms Freeman also wrongly said two downgraded centres would open next week, despite the local health board saying it would be well into next month.
The Scottish Tories accused her of adding “confusion” to the SNP Government’s already “sluggish” vaccine rollout, which has so far covered one in eight Scottish adults.
The Government’s vaccine delivery plan published earlier this month identified six “mass vaccination settings capable of administering in excess of 20,000 vaccinations per week”.
The sites named were the NHS Louisa Jordan in Glasgow, Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), Pyramids Business Park in Bathgate, Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh, Ravenscraig Sports Facility in Motherwell, and Aberdeen’s P&J Live.
Ms Freeman repeated their status in parliament, telling MSPs: “Some of those large sites have already been secured, such as the Aberdeen exhibition and conference centre, the Ravenscraig sports facility in Motherwell, Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh, and the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.”
However on Thursday it emerged at least two of the sites had been quietly downgraded.
In a press release, NHS Lothian confirmed the EICC site would be capable of vaccinating more than 21,000 people per week through 45 vaccination “stations”.
But it said the Pyramids Business Park would only be capable of vaccinating 14,280 people a week at 34 stations, while the drive-through facility at Queen Margaret University would vaccinate just 8,000 per week at 16 stations.
A smaller centre in Broxburn, West Lothian, would also be capable of 2,352 jags a week.Source: Scottish Government Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment Plan 2021
NHS Lothian said EICC would open on Monday, but the QMU drive through will not open until February 10 and the Pyramids site in Bathgate opens on February 15.
At the daily briefing, Ms Freeman muddled up the dates.
She correctly said the EICC and P&J Live would open as “two more mass vaccination centres” on Monday adding to the existing mass centre at the NHS Louisa Jordan.
But asked what had happened to the other mass centres, she downgraded their status.
She said: “We’ve already got one, what I’d consider a mass vaccination centre, which is the NHS Louisa Jordan. Two others start from Monday, the one on Aberdeen and the one in Edinburgh.
“I then talk about ‘large community centres’.
“I don’t know the detail of what they’re describing in NHS England as mass centre, but for example there will be a centre in Easterhouse opening up, if it’s not already opened, which is a sports centre which can vaccinate up to 2000 people in a day.
“Some might call that a mass centre, I call it a large community based centre.”
She said local centres of various sizes would be set up across Scotland reflecting the local geography and population size.
She also insisted the Government was on target to vaccinate all over-80s by the end of the first week of February and all over-70s and the clinically vulnerable by mid-February.
Jeane Freeman insists ‘no one is exceptional’ after SNP MP Kenny MacAskill in lockdown row
“The idea is to make sure that we’ve got big enough premises for the size of the population, but local enough that people can get to it relatively easily so they can take up their vaccination appointment.”
Pressed on when all the mass vaccination centres identified in the Government’s delivery plan would open, Ms Freeman said: “The Ravenscraig site and the other ones in the vaccine deployment plan are standing up and will be running from next week if they’ve not already begun. Many of them had test runs this week.
“I would call those large community sites, not mass.
“The mass sites are the really big ones like the EICC will be and the one in Aberdeen and Louisa Jordan. Let’s not dance on the head of a pin about the number.
“Those sites that are in the deployment will be opening up and there will be many, many more added to them.”
Tory health spokesman Donald Cameron said: “The SNP’s sluggish Covid-19 vaccine rollout is still making minimal progress. Last week the SNP fell behind and this week’s figures show they’re struggling to pick up the pace.
“All the SNP’s hopes to speed up their flagging rollout seem to be pinned on the last-minute rush to get mass vaccination centres open.
“There’s no doubt mass centres will give the SNP’s rollout a shot in the arm, so to speak, but it remains to be seen if they will still be lagging behind.
“Worryingly, today the health secretary couldn’t give many answers about further opening dates and, all on her own, she created confusion about what even constitutes a mass vaccination centre.”
Ms Freeman said 515,855 people in Scotland had received their first dose by 830 this morning, up 24,197 in a day.
So far these include 90% of care home residents, 74% of care home staff, and 68% of over-80s in the community.