Claim Scotland lagging behind UK on vaccines is Half True 3

Claim Scotland lagging behind UK on vaccines is Half True

Scotland has moved into a modified version of Level 0 on the Scottish Government’s five-tier system of Covid restrictions. 

When she announced the move on 13 July, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this was possible because “in the race between the vaccine and the virus, we believe the vaccine will win”.

Scottish Labour issued a video later that day saying the way to “win the race” is to cut the gap between vaccine doses. Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie posted a tweet criticised the government’s vaccination programme.

Our vaccine effort lags behind the rest of the UK.

Jackie Baillie

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it Half True.


UK Government data shows that as of 12 July, 3.9 million people in Scotland had received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination. On the same date, a total of 2.9 million people in Scotland had received both doses.

Proportionally, this meant that 88.9 per cent of those aged 18 and over in Scotland had received a first dose and 65.5 per cent had received both doses.

On the same date 87.1 per cent of adults in England, 81.6 per cent of adults in Northern Ireland and 90.2 per cent of adults in Wales had received one dose. These figures meant that, proportionally, Scotland had administered the second highest number of first doses of all the UK nations.

When it came to both doses, the data shows that 65.5 per cent of Scotland’s adult population had been fully vaccinated by 12 July. That compares with 66.2 per cent in England, 65 per cent in Northern Ireland and 73.2 per cent in Wales. Therefore, proportionally, Scotland had the second lowest number of fully vaccinated adults in the UK on that date and was just half a percentage point ahead of Northern Ireland, which had the lowest number of fully vaccinated adults.

Have the figures altered since the vaccination programme began?

The number of doses administered on a daily and weekly basis has fluctuated throughout the rollout of the programme. One reason cited for this is that supply levels can be changeable. In February for example, Sturgeon said the rate of the rollout had slowed due to there being “a lower supply of vaccines available to us this week”. Similarly, in June it was reported that a shortage of the Pfizer vaccine was expected to slow the rollout across the UK.

March saw the highest number of vaccines administered in the UK as a whole, with an average of 602,265 daily doses being given during the seven days to 18 March. This month saw the lowest figure, with the seven-day average for the week to 10 July hitting 235,866.

The number of doses administered on any given day has also varied significantly. The government data shows that, within Scotland, in the first two weeks of July there was a high of 30,141 doses administered and a low of 17,449. The lowest ever figure – 4,892 – was recorded on 17 January. Though the numbers fell steadily between 8 July 8 and 12 July they rose again the following day.

What do the numbers mean on a proportional basis?

The government’s vaccination uptake graph shows that Scotland has never led the UK nations in terms of the proportion of the population who received a first dose. It came last for a brief period between April and May.

All four UK nations began their vaccination programmes on 8 December last year. By 10 January, Northern Ireland had administered a first dose to the greatest proportion of residents at 5.4 per cent. It was followed by England (4.4 per cent), Scotland (3.7 per cent) and Wales (3.4 per cent).

Between 25 April and 20 May Scotland fell into fourth place in terms of the proportion of people receiving a first dose, but sat above Northern Ireland from that point onwards. It overtook England on 12 June, when 78.9 per cent of adults had received a first dose. At that point Wales led the way (87.7 per cent), followed by Scotland then England (78.5 per cent) then Northern Ireland (76.6 per cent).

It is recommended that second doses of the various vaccines used in the UK are administered between eight and 12 weeks after the first. On 2 March, which was 12 weeks after the UK-wide vaccination programme began, Wales had fully vaccinated 4.9 per of its adult population, followed by Northern Ireland (2.6 per cent), Scotland (2.1 per cent) and England (1.4 per cent).

By 8 April, Scotland had the lowest proportion of fully vaccinated adults at 11.8 per cent. At that point Wales had a considerable lead over the other nations, with 19.8 per cent of adults double jabbed. Wales maintained its lead until 4 May, at which point both Scotland and Wales had vaccinated 31 per cent of their adult populations, Northern Ireland had vaccinated 30.7 per cent and England 30 per cent.

Wales slipped into fourth place between 10 May 10 and 5 June before again taking the lead on 20 June. Scotland was in second place for most of that time, falling into third place on 14 June.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Half True

When Jackie Baillie made the claim, 65.5 per cent of Scottish adults had been fully vaccinated. That was ahead of Northern Ireland, behind England, and behind Wales. There have been ebbs and flows in the relative proportion of people fully vaccinated in each UK nation. Scotland’s vaccination rate slowed in the second week of July. Proportionally, Scotland is broadly comparable with the proportions vaccinated in England and Northern Ireland. 

This claim is half true.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles.

All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here.

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Photo Credit: iStock/Dejan_Dundjerski

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