NICOLA Sturgeon has hailed the "beginning of the end" of the pandemic, with vaccinations against Covid set to begin next Tuesday.

The First Minister said she "warmly and enthusiastically" welcomed news the MHRA had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has passed safety checks and delivers up to 95% protection against disease.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that if delivery of vaccine supplies runs to schedule she expects that vaccinations will begin in Scotland in six days time, on Tuesday December 8.

Healthcare staff who are administering the vaccine will be the first to be inoculated, followed by older care home residents, over-80s and frontline health and social care workers.

The vaccine will be administered in two doses, 21 to 28 days apart, said Ms Sturgeon. 

The full protective effect of the vaccine does not kick in until seven days after the booster jag, meaning it will be early January before those who have been given the vaccination first are fully immunised. 

Ms Sturgeon said the development was "without a shadow of a doubt the best news we have heard". 

The UK is expected to received 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by next week - enough to vaccinate 400,000 people - with a share of those coming to Scotland.

The vaccines are being manufactured in Belgium and will have to be transported to the UK and maintained a temperatures of minus 70C - colder than the Arctic in winter.  

However, it can be stored in a standard GP fridge for up to five days before being administered.