Meeting target for Covid boosters will be a monumental challenge, Sturgeon says

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Getting booster jabs to all Scots aged 18 and above by the end of this year will be a “monumental challenge”, Nicola Sturgeon has conceded.

With the vaccination programme being accelerated in a bid to combat the new Omicron variant of the virus, the First Minister said she did not underestimate the scale of the challenge.

But as she stressed vaccination was the “best line of defence” against Omicron, Ms Sturgeon said: “We’ve got to bust a gut to get this programme done as quickly as possible.”

To meet the ambition of offering all eligible adults a booster dose of vaccine by the end of December means that more than 70,000 Scots a day will need to get jagged, it has been estimated.

Ms Sturgeon, who has previously warned Omicron could lead to a “tsunami” of new infections, told BBC Scotland that government officials were currently working with local health boards to speed up the programme.

This will be done by a combination of bringing in additional staff to give the injections, increasing the number of appointments at vaccine centres and looking at opening up new centres.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are currently the most vaccinated part of the UK, including through boosters, but we do want to speed that up because Omicron is running very fast and we need to speed up the vaccines.

“We also know from some of the early evidence in terms of being infected with Omicron one or two doses is not sufficient… its really really important we get booster jags into people’s arms as quickly as possible.”

As part of that, members of the armed forces may be deployed to Scotland to boost the vaccination effort – with possibly around 70 men and women expected to help with this once they have been trained.

More members of the armed forces are being deployed to boost the vaccination effort (MoD/PA)

Ms Sturgeon accepted there were  these “very real challenges” to the vaccine programme, but added: “The other challenge that is inescapable is we have a virus that has mutated again and is more transmissible than anything that has come before.

“Booster jags are our best defence against this, so we’ve got to, excuse the lack of technical language here, we’ve got to bust a gut to get this programme done as quickly as possible and we are challenging ourselves to do that at pace.”

But she stated: “I don’t underestimate any of this, this is a monumental challenge.”

Ms Sturgeon said she is aware people have found it difficult to book an appointment for a booster, but urged them to “keep trying”, adding: “Every effort is being made to build capacity, and more appointments are being created each day.”

In a statement ahead of her coronavirus briefing in Parliament on Tuesday, she said that she hopes to protect peoples’ ability to spend Christmas with their families this year, adding: “I am personally hoping for a more normal Christmas than last year on behalf of everybody across the country.”

She said any steps taken to curb further spread of the virus will be “as targeted and proportionate as possible”.

Currently, 2,154,571 people in Scotland have had a booster vaccination, with those aged 30 and above now able to book appointments in the system, which will then be opened up to all adults later this week.

Ms Sturgeon said if people had difficulty making an appointment they should try again the next day “because we are building the capacity, getting more appointments into the system, literally every day”.

An Army spokesman said around 100 servicemen and women are currently assisting with vaccinations in 11 health board areas across Scotland – Ayrshire and Arran, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Forth Valley, Grampian, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Highland, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Tayside.

He added it is possible some 70 additional staff may deployed to the vaccine programme in Scotland in the coming days, once they have received training.

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