SNP ministers have been accused of "shameless spin" after contradicting official figures to claim they had not missed their own Covid vaccination targets.
Nicola Sturgeon declared that it was “a fact” that her goal of fully vaccinating everyone in their 40s by Monday had been met, and accused her opponents of engaging in “childish politics” by suggesting otherwise.
However, Public Health Scotland data showed that just 76.6 per cent of people in the group were fully protected. Ms Sturgeon argued that the target had been based on arranging appointments, rather than actually administering jabs.
Opponents said she was attempting to rewrite history, after she said at Holyrood last month that “we expect to have given second doses to all 40 to 49-year-olds" by July 26.
The First Minister has previously said that plans for easing coronavirus restrictions would be tied to hitting vaccination milestones, raising fears that Scotland’s planned ‘Freedom Day’ on August 9 is set to be delayed.
However, her Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, said yesterday that he was “confident” that restrictions would be eased on time, despite the slowing vaccination programme and a reluctance to accept jabs among a significant minority of younger Scots.
Public Health Scotland figures showed that yesterday, around 158,000 people in their 40s – just under a quarter of the total – had not yet received both doses. However, more than nine in 10 had taken a first dose.
Scotland has fallen ‘spectacularly short’
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, accused Ms Sturgeon of being “economical with the truth”.
She said: “The First Minister can shamelessly try and spin this all she likes, but the facts speak for themselves.
“Of course the vaccine isn’t mandatory and no-one expected 100 per cent coverage by this point – but we have fallen spectacularly short.
“Over 90 per cent of people in this group have had their first dose, but almost a quarter are still waiting for their second – so it cannot be written off as a reluctance to be vaccinated.
“The SNP’s attempts to downplay these figures is a reminder that they are more concerned with optics than outcomes.”
An analysis by the Scottish Tories has found that at current rates, another crucial target of vaccinating all adults by mid-September will be missed by around 600,000 people. While uptake rates have been near-universal among older Scots, they have fallen drastically among those in their late teens, 20s and 30s.
Target ‘has not been missed’ urges Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon insisted that uptake was “very high by the standards of any previous vaccination programme” and it had been “outstanding in its success.”
Speaking at the Police Scotland training college in Tulliallan, she 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.”
Latest UK vaccine numbers: rollout figures
Only 71.6 per cent of those aged 18-29 have had a first dose of the vaccine, while one in five people in the 30-39 age group have also not received one.
Mr Yousaf yesterday confirmed that mobile vaccine clinics would be set up outside pubs, bars and restaurants in an effort to encourage uptake among the young.
He said: “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."
Jon Davie, 29, receiving his vaccination at the Covid bus, Celtic Park, Glasgow
Credit: Jon Davie, 29, receiving his vaccination at the Covid bus, Celtic Park, Glasgow
Ms Sturgeon will give a statement to parliament next week confirming whether or not Scotland will move “beyond Level 0” next month, with most legal restrictions being dropped.
Mr Yousaf added: “ I wouldn’t want to pre-empt it, but we’re still confident of being able to move forward.”
However, Annie Wells, health spokeswoman for the Scottish Tories, claimed Ms Sturgeon and Mr Yousaf were “in denial”.
She added: “They are desperately trying to claim key vaccine targets have been met rather than face reality. They should be upfront about their failings instead of furiously spinning false figures.”