A decision to shut Scotland’s largest mass vaccination centre has been called "madness" following a dramatic slow-down in the rollout of jabs and figures showing barely half of local residents have received both doses.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the Hydro, which carried out up to 5,000 vaccinations a day, would no longer be used after Sunday’s clinic. The health board instead plans to focus on providing jabs in mobile facilities and local drop-in centres.
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary, backed the move, saying that it "was always the intention" for the site to be handed over to the organisers of the COP26 climate change summit.
However, the city’s opposition MSPs expressed disbelief at the decision and argued that the facility was required until all Glasgow’s residents had received both jabs. Only 54 per cent of adults in Glasgow are fully vaccinated, the second lowest figure of any local authority.
They also questioned why the site had to be handed over so soon to COP26, which is being hosted by the UK Government in the city between Oct 31 and Nov 12.
Further eyebrows were raised as the Hydro, which is usually a music venue, is hosting 12 events before the climate change summit starts. They include a wrestling match on September 22 and concerts by progressive rock band Genesis on Oct 7 and 8.
7-day Covid-19 case rate per 100,000 people
The row broke out after it emerged that the number of daily vaccinations reached a three-month low earlier this week, with only 17,749 injections, including 7,163 first doses administered on Monday. Only 6,953 first doses were given on Thursday. That represented a sharp drop on the average of more than 40,000 per day at the start of June.
Prof Jason Leitch, the country’s national clinical director, admitted the roll-out had slowed and it was harder to convince people under 30 to come forward.
Part of the strategy for increasing uptake among younger Scots is to provide clinics in convenient locations, but around one in five of the city’s adults are yet to even receive their first jab.
A further 2,047 Covid cases were recorded across Scotland on Friday, fewer than half the record total of 4,234 reported at the start of the month, while the number of deaths dropped from Thursday’s total of 19 to five.
But figures from the Office for National Statistics showed Scotland was the UK’s Covid hotspot for the third week running last week, with around one in 90 people north of the border thought to have the virus.
This compared with one in 95 people in England, a significant increase on the previous week’s figure of one in 160, one in 360 in Wales and one in 290 in Northern Ireland.
Covid on the rise in Europe
Annie Wells, the Scottish Tories’ shadow health secretary and a Glasgow MSP, said: "Just as we head towards the finishing line, the SNP are overseeing a slowing down in Scotland’s vaccination roll-out.
"They are set to miss their own targets and hundreds of thousands of adults are still set to be waiting on getting their first dose. People will understandably be confused as to why the decision has been taken to close the country’s largest vaccination centre."
Pauline McNeill, a Glasgow Labour MSP, tweeted: "I can hardly believe this. Glasgow did have the highest levels of the virus and the slowest levels of vaccine roll out and the Hydro is to close on Sunday. We need this facility until everyone is double vaccinated. This is literally a race against this deadly virus."
Addressing Mr Yousaf on Twitter, she added: "You must step in and stop this madness – at least until we have all our citizens double vaccinated."
Announcing the closure, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said almost 3,000 vaccinators have worked at the Hydro as part of the "largest mass vaccination programme undertaken".
Jane Grant, the health board’s chief executive, said: "Our vaccination rollout has been a great success so far and as we now move into the next stage of the programme and look ahead to potential Covid-19 vaccine booster requirements, it is important we can continue to provide an accessible and flexible service to members of the public.
"This is why our focus is now very much on community drop-ins and the use of mobile vaccination facilities which allow us to continue to connect with communities as well as make provision for people who may not be able to attend a scheduled appointment due to work or family commitments."
Mr Yousaf said: "It is now time for the site to be handed over in preparation for Cop26, as was always the intention.
"The transition from the Hydro will be seamless with no negative impact on vaccination capacity and appointments have been allocated to alternative clinics, although of course, people can always head along to one of the many drop-in clinics now operating in the area if they prefer."