JOHN Swinney has stated his “regret” after people were reportedly turned away from vaccination centres after updated booster jag rules were not being implemented by health boards.

The Deputy First Minister also insisted that the capacity is there to ensure all double vaccinated people over the age of 18 can receive their booster jag by the end of January.

Mr Swinney was pressed over the updated guidance issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) earlier this week to extend eligibility for booster jags by cutting the 24-week wait between doses to just 12 weeks.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Covid-19 Recovery Committee, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser pointed to the reports of people being turned away from vaccination clinics.

He said: “A number of individuals who turned up at vaccination centres expecting to be given the booster and were then turned away because it had been less than 24 weeks since their second jab – which clearly was not in line with the new Scottish Government guidance.

“Has that issue now been resolved?”

Mr Swinney claimed “the issue has now been resolved”.

He added: “I regret very much that some individuals had the experience they had yesterday because the guidance changed and that should have been applied in all vaccination centres and scenarios.

“In light of what emerged in what I’m advised was a limited number of cases yesterday, we have reiterated the guidance to all health boards to ensure that all vaccination centres are operating to that new updated guidance which, of course, only emerged at the start of this week.

“But I regret the fact that some individuals were inconvenienced in the way that they were.

“Obviously the fact that people are so willing to come forward for the booster jags at such an early stage after the change of guidance is an indication of the public attitude to participate in the programme – which is welcome – which makes it doubly disappointing that people were inconvenienced in the way that they were.”

Mr Fraser added that “there’ll be a lot of extra demand” for people to receive their booster jag, given the fears over the new Omicron variant and the change in guidance.

He said: “Is the capacity in place now therefore, to respond to that demand?

“What steps are being taken to increase that capacity, particularly over the coming weeks?”

Mr Swinney stressed “the capacity is there”, adding that “there’s no issue with that”.

He said: “Obviously, we have to go through the process of vaccination in an orderly fashion to make sure it can be done efficiently. We’ve already expanded significantly the availability of vaccines as part of the programme.

“Obviously the change in JCVI guidance on Monday increases the number of people who are then eligible for a booster vaccination at this particular moment. That creates an additional 1.3 million individuals who immediately become eligible.”

Mr Swinney added: “We can’t vaccinate 1.3 million people in one day so we have to increase capacity to move through that as efficiently as we possibly can do. That work is underway to ensure that we are satisfying that understandable demand that there will be in the community.

“Prior to the JCVI guidance, we were confident that all eligible individuals would be able to secure their booster vaccination before the turn of the year. We are confident that with the new JCVI guidance in place, we will be able to reach that point by the end of January.”

But Labour MSP Alex Rowley suggested all issues had not been ironed out, reading out a tweet he had seen from a constituent who was ‘turned away from my Covid booster is Kirkaldy this morning’.

Mr Rowley said: “It’s this question between the mismatch of what Government is saying in this place and what’s happening out there.”

He highlighted his own experience of getting his booster jag at a drop-in centre in Dunfermline where he had to queue for around 40 minutes, but suggested around 40 people were “turned away”.

He added: “That doesn’t suggest the capacity is there.”

In response, Mr Swinney said: “We have reiterated the guidance to health boards. It is important that guidance is applied in all scenarios and circumstances on the ground.

“It does take time for these messages to get across.”