Scotland’s plan for the distribution of coronavirus vaccinations has been taken offline after the UK government raised concerns that the document included sensitive details about vaccine supply.
The plan, which was published on Wednesday evening but removed by Thursday morning, set out the exact numbers of vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna the Scottish government expected to receive on a weekly basis up to the end of May, revealing two weeks when no AstraZeneca vaccine would be available.
The UK government is reportedly furious at the publication of such detailed figures, amid anxieties it could lead to suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson refused to give any details of how many doses the UK has, or how they will be allocated. “It’s obviously the case that vaccines are in high demand throughout the world, and it’s been the case throughout that we haven’t provided a detailed commentary on the size of our supplies or the detailed logistics around them. That will remain the case.”
But Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, responded to the row at her lunchtime briefing by arguing that her government was acting with transparency: “At the weekend I was reading UK government sources criticising the Scottish government for not going fast enough, saying: ‘Oh, they’ve got more supply than they are letting on.’ What we’ve tried to do is put it out there so people can judge.”
Sturgeon told her daily briefing on Thursday that the plan had been taken down “temporarily” because of concerns raised by UK ministers around “commercial confidentiality”.
Asked if she agreed that vaccine suppliers could be put under pressure, she said: “The UK government have been talking for a long time about the supplies that they have managed to secure so, you know, these are estimates of the supplies that have been secured. So I’m not convinced, but I think it would be for UK government ministers to talk more about the basis of their concern.”
The Scottish government has been accused of a “sluggish” initial deployment of the vaccine by opposition parties and a lack of clarity around how Scotland’s allocation was being used. It has set a target of vaccinating 400,000 people a week from the end of February.