The Scottish Labour leader said the speed of the vaccination rollout must be increased, adding Holyrood should be recalled to deal with the “out of control” spread of coronavirus.
He also accused the Scottish government of being too slow on measures such as walk-in vaccination centres and contact tracing.
Pointing to guidance from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which suggests that vaccines can be effective when the two doses are administered just four weeks apart, Mr Sarwar said the current eight-week gap should be halved.
He said: “We need a plan now for dealing with this - and the clear route out of this is speeding up the vaccination effort.
“By cutting the waiting time between first and second doses, we can get people protected faster and ensure our response to the pandemic is keeping pace with the crisis. The government cannot afford to take their eye off the ball at this crucial moment.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised that second doses should be given no earlier than eight weeks after a first jab, citing evidence which shows that the longer interval provides higher levels of protection than the usual three-week gap.
In response, a spokesperson for Scotland’s health secretary, Humza Yousaf, argued that an eight-week gap was “optimal” according to JCVI advice, adding: “We are progressing the final stages of our successful vaccine rollout as quickly as we can.
“This is limited by supply, we can only give Pfizer to younger age groups, in addition, constraints on supply affect the pool of those who had their first dose eight weeks previously.”
Mr Sarwar’s words come amid record levels of new coronavirus cases in Scotland. Last week saw the most coronavirus cases than at any point during the pandemic, with a peak of 4,484 new infections recorded.
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest Scotland has the highest Covid rate in the UK – 73% higher than in England, triple those in Wales and more than four times higher than those in Northern Ireland.
But it has emerged that many GP-run sites and large-scale vaccination centres have defied these orders, which are enforced by NHS England, in order to fully vaccinate people ahead of 19 July and ensure their stock does not go to waste.
Additional reporting by PA
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