Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has admitted Scotland’s vaccine rollout needs to speed up.
Scotland has vaccinated fewer people as a proportion of the population than any other UK nation – something the Scottish Government has claimed was due to prioritising care homes.
A total of 619,123 doses have now been administered in Scotland, compared to 8,825,371 in England, 440,706 in Wales and 258,311 in Northern Ireland.
The increase of 34,881 first doses and 496 second doses given in Scotland as of 8.30am on Tuesday was the highest combined figure recorded so far – 35,377 – in part due to the opening of two mass vaccination centres in Aberdeen and Edinburgh on Monday.
It followed the record-low figure of 9683 first and second doses administered on Sunday.
Opposition parties have accused the Scottish Government of overseeing a “sluggish” programme, while the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to offer more UK Government help in rolling out the vaccine.
Asked why Scotland was falling behind the other UK nations, Freeman said: “I do believe that we need to vaccinate faster in Scotland than we have been doing, and I think the plans that are in place from this week onwards significantly increase those numbers.”
Freeman said she would write to MSPs later this week to explain changes to the government’s approach to the supply and delivery of vaccines, as well as setting out increasing numbers of vaccination centres.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, she added: “There has been variation – quite significant variation – between (health) boards.
“That is reducing as we sit with each board looking at their plans, their numbers, and identifying where the variation is unacceptable and that we need them to do more.”
Singling out NHS Ayrshire and Arran, Freeman explained that the health board had been planning vaccination clinics “too late in the month” and were now working to bring appointments forward.
Scottish Conservatives Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said: “All the evidence shows the rollout is slow, stuttering and lagging way behind the rest of the UK.
“Nicola Sturgeon didn’t explain why the rollout in Scotland is so far behind. She’s finally accepted this isn’t going well – but we still don’t know how the SNP are going to fix it.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “I know the FM is irritated by comparisons with England on the vaccination programme but it is a fair benchmark, it shows what is possible and we should be ambitious with this lifesaving vaccine.
“I want to praise the NHS teams for vaccinating 35,000 people yesterday. At last, we are moving in the right direction but it has taken seven weeks and we are still behind the rate in England.”