SCOTLAND will be vaccinating 400,000 people a week against Covid by the end of February, the Health Secretary has said. 

Jeane Freeman told MSPs that 365,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have so far arrived in Scotland, with 155,025 Pfizer vaccines and 42,100 Oxford vaccines in storage or transit. 

She confirmed that 191,965 people have so far received their first dose of a Covid vaccine, and just under 3000 people have had a second dose before the timescales switched from three to 12 week lags. 

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To date, just over 80 per cent of care home residents in Scotland have been vaccinated against the disease, along with just over 55% of care home staff and just under 52% of frontline NHS staff. 

Among those aged 80 and over in the community, around 2% of people received their first jag using the Oxford vaccine in the eight days since January 4, when its rollout first began. 

The Herald: JCVI Priority list for Covid vaccinationsJCVI Priority list for Covid vaccinations

The Health Secretary said everyone in the priority groups one and two - care home residents and staff, over-80s, and frontline NHS and social care workers - will have received a first dose of Covid vaccine by the first week in February. 

She added that the decision to delay second doses to 12 weeks, as recommended by the Joint Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination (JCVI) - would save lives by protecting more of the oldest and most at risk. 

"The second dose remains important to lengthen the time immunity is present," said Ms Freeman.

"Everyone will still receive their second dose within 12 weeks of their first and the second dose will be of the same vaccine as the first."

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Ms Freeman said the current prevalence of the virus in Scotland is 262 cases per 100,000 with test positivity of 10.1%.

She added that the new more transmissible variant form "is increasing in its dominance", adding: "We face a more perilous situation than at any time in the pandemic." 

Ms Freeman said that based on current supply forecasts, the Scottish Government expect to have inoculated all those over 70 by mid-February, and everyone who aged over 65  or in the "clinically extemely vulnerable" category - which includes anyone of any age who is shielding - by the beginning of March.

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The Health Secretary said they will use health centres, GP surgeries and local clinics "primarily for those aged 80 and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable".

Health boards rather than GP practices are leading the delivery of the immunisation programme in Scotland but Dr Nicola Steedman, Scotland's deputy chief medical officer, said it "may be more appropriate" for under 65s with underlying health conditions which increase their risk from Covid to also be vaccinated by their GP. 

During February and into March, Ms Freeman said more local vaccination sites - including community pharmacies, mobile vaccination clinics, small scale mass vaccination centres - will join the effort, along with large scale centres capable of delivering more than 20,000 vaccinations a week.

Mass vaccination sites will include: Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, Ravenscraig Sports Facility in Motherwell, Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh and the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. 

She said "rapid work is underway" to secure further mass vaccination sites in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, in addition to the NHS Louisa Jordan hub. 

The large-scale sites will operate 8am to 8pm seven days a week, although Ms Freeman said these hours could be extended "if that proves more more convenient for people". 

She added that a total estimate of 3,400 vaccinators will be needed - depending on part-time working - to carry out the target 400,000 inoculations a week from the end of February, when the programme will begin to immunise the remaining priority groups: the over 60s, 16 to 64-year-olds with underlying health conditions (but who have not been shielding), followed by the over-55s and over-50s. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said they expect to given first doses to everyone on the JCVI priority list by early May.   

Dr Steedman stressed that it was still unclear how many people would have to be vaccinated before all restrictions could be safely lifted. 

She said: "We don't know that yet because we don't know the effect on transmission - that will shift the goalposts. 

"If it doesn't stop transmission then we really need very high levels of uptake - almost everyone who is eligible really, if all it's doing is preventing disease. 

"If it does stop transmission then the number we need will be lower, to achieve herd immunity."

Dr Steedman said this might be around 75 per cent, but stressed it will also depend on natural immunity levels in the population as a result of infections. 

"Until we have that magic number we're just going to keep vaccinating," she said.

Dr Steedman added that they are also investigating the reasons for the lower uptake rates of 55% among care home staff, compared to 80% for residents.

She said: "Not everyone will be there on the day, but that's a signal that we're looking at. The intelligence from our immunisation teams is that uptake might not be as high as we'd like. 

"There's a feeling of slight reluctance in that group so we want to dig deeper into that."