John Swinney has hit back at claims that the Scottish Government has more than 400,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines which have not been given to patients.
He said while these doses have been allocated to Scotland, they have not yet been received.
The Deputy First Minister insisted: “We do not have that volume of vaccine in our hands, we cannot distribute that because it has not arrived with us yet.”
The Scottish Government has come under fire in recent days over its coronavirus vaccination programme, with concerns raised that it is lagging behind progress being made south of the border.
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson claimed on Tuesday that while ministers in Scotland have received 717,000 doses, “more than 400,000 have yet to reach patients”.
But Mr Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday: “We are not in receipt of 700,000 doses of the vaccine.
“That has been allocated to us but it is not in our hands.
“We have had an allocation of that volume of vaccine but it has not yet arrived with us, it has got to go through the checks that are made by the principle distributor, it has then got to be physically distributed to us as a national allocation, and it has then got to be physically distributed to 1,100 locations around the country. And all of that takes time.”
His comments came after the UK Government had what First Minister Nicola Sturgeon branded a “hissy fit” when the Scottish Government made public the number of doses it expects to receive in the coming weeks and months.
Scottish ministers had to remove that information from their vaccine plan, with Ms Sturgeon saying the UK Government is concerned that publishing it breaches commercial confidentiality.
Mr Swinney said that as a result, his “hands are rather tied” about how much he could say about the number of doses received so far.
But he stressed the Scottish Government has not yet received all 700,000-plus vaccine doses it has been allocated.
He added: “We have taken steps to make sure that when vaccines become available, we distribute them to the health and care system around the country.
“And our priorities have been clear, we wanted to go to the most vulnerable first, care homes. That is a time-consuming and complex task and we have now administered the vaccine to 95% of care home residents.
“Scotland has an allocation of vaccination doses which we draw down through the supplier of the vaccine.
“We have been allocated them. It is difficult for me to go through the specific numbers because my hands are tied by the UK Government restrictions that were imposed on us last week.
“There is a programme to make sure the vaccines get to GP practices when they become available, when they come into the hands of the Scottish Government.
“We do not have that volume of vaccine in our hands, we cannot distribute that because it has not arrived with us yet.
“It may have been allocated to us, and that is very, very welcome. We will get it over the course of the next few weeks, which is why I can confidently say to you that the commitments we have given, that the over-80s for example will all be vaccinated by the end of the first week in February, is a commitment that will be fulfilled.
“The commitment we have always given, which was that over-80s would be vaccinated by the end of the first week in February, is exactly what is going to happen.”
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