With coronavirus cases of the Omicron variant in Scotland on the rise and more expected to come, the Scottish Government is urging the public to adhere to precautionary measures and to get vaccinated.
Bookings for Covid booster jabs in Scotland have now opened up for 18 to 29-year-olds, as of Wednesday December 15.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday that the Scottish Government would be ramping up its Covid booster programme, aiming to have offered those over the age of 18 in Scotland a booster jab by December 31.
This latest push is in the line with the UK Government’s pledge to offer every adult in the UK a Covid booster vaccine before the end of January 2022.
More than 90% of over 12-year-olds in Scotland have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine and 83.2% have received their second dose as of December 14.
On top of this, 49.5% of over 18-year-olds have received their booster jab in Scotland so far as the Scottish Government intensifies its booster vaccination programme.
But who how can you book a booster jab in Scotland? And who is eligible for the Covid booster jab?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is the Covid booster vaccine?
Announced in mid September, the coronavirus booster vaccine programme in Scotland seeks to deliver added protection for citizens who might have experienced reduced immunity to Covid-19 and the dominant variant strains of Delta and Omicron.
But it is also being rolled out to reduce the strain of the ‘pingdemic’ on the availability and safety of staff in frontline industries such as healthcare.
Scotland’s booster programme officially began on 21 September, with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stating that the decision to offer extra vaccine doses to some members of the population came following advice from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
The JCVI said that the supply of booster doses were vital in keeping more vulnerable people in society safer and protected from coronavirus before the winter sets in.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “The booster programme is intended to prolong the protection that vaccines provide against severe COVID illness.
“It will run alongside our biggest ever flu vaccine programme – since both of these programmes are important for individual and public health.
"Wherever possible, eligible people will be offered COVID and flu vaccines together.”
The UK Government has ordered 114 million more vaccine doses in preparation for a nationwide push for adults to take up the booster jab offer.
What type of vaccine is the Covid booster jab?
If you are eligible for a booster vaccine, you will most likely receive either a Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
AstraZeneca will only be offered as a booster for those who cannot have Pfizer or Moderna jabs for medical reasons.
You can receive a booster dose from at least six months after you received your second Covid jab and will help reduce the risk of you needing to go to hospital due to coronavirus this winter.
If you're eligible, your flu and coronavirus booster vaccines will be given at the same time – one in each arm.
Who can get a Covid booster vaccine in Scotland?
In Scotland, everyone over the age of 18 will be eligible for the booster vaccine, where before it was only offered to the over 40s.
From December 13, anyone over the age of 30 can now book their Covid vaccine, as announced by Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.
In order to best protect the most vulnerable groups in Scotland, booster vaccine doses in Scotland were offered to the following groups first:
- those living in residential care homes for older adults
- frontline health and social care workers
- all adults aged 50 years or over
- adults aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that mean they are at risk of developing severe or long Covid
- adult carers (aged 16 or over)
- household contacts (aged 16 or over) of immunosuppressed individuals
What’s more, in order to meet the target of offering all adults the booster jab before the end of January, the recommended time between the second and third jab has now been reduced to three months by the JCVI.
How do I book my Covid booster jab?
Those over the age of 70 or deemed particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 will be invited to receive a Covid booster vaccine by letter or being contacted by their GP.
Health workers and frontline social care staff are able to book their Covid booster jab online on the NHS Inform website.
Care home residents will receive a Covid and flu booster vaccine at the same time in their care homes, with any staff unable to get a booster vaccination on site able to book a slot for their online through NHS Inform.
As of Wednesday December 15, anyone else over the age of 18 can now book an appointment for their coronavirus booster jab online.
This will take place through NHS Inform’s online portal, with anyone who doesn’t book online set to receive an invitation by post.
Appointments will be available for dates running from late November through December, as vaccinations for earlier priority groups are being completed this month.
Anyone in those earlier groups who has missed their appointment for whatever reason can also use the portal to book their vaccinations.
Those wishing to book their Covid booster jab through the online NHS Inform portal, located at https://www.nhsinform.scot/vaccinebooking, will need their vaccination username provided on any previous appointment letter.
If this is not readily available, you can find or reset your NHS Inform username at NHS Inform's recover username webpage.
And anyone without online access can book an appointment through the national helpline on 0800 030 8013.
People who live within NHS Western Isles, NHS Shetland or NHS Orkney will not need to use the online portal as they will receive an appointment through the post.
Some areas of NHS Highland are piloting use of the online portal and anyone in the Inverness area is advised to check information on the health board's website, while others will be sent an appointment letter.
To find out more about who can receive a Covid booster vaccine and how to book your booster jab, go to https://www.nhsinform.scot/covid-19-vaccine/the-vaccines/coronavirus-covid-19-booster-vaccination.
How to get the earliest possible booster jab appointment
With Scots urged to get their booster vaccine as soon as possible, many are noticing that some booster jab appointment slots at local vaccination centres before Christmas are disappearing quickly.
But with a range of vaccination sites usually available for every Scottish health board, you don’t need to go to the closest one to you.
In fact, if you can travel, going to one with a shorter waiting time can help speed the process up for you.
To get the earliest date possible, you can try to shop around and check availability at each individual vaccine centre, rather than accepting a far-off date at your local one.
Additional reporting by PA