Scotland’s national clinical director stressed the need to get both vaccinations to offer “decent” protection and suggested eight to 10 weeks of progress thanks to the vaccine had been “lost” because of the variant, first identified in India.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Prof Leitch said the new strain of Covid-19 has “changed the game” in terms of the vaccine rollout because of the lack of protection offered by the first dose alone.
He said a four-week delay for first doses could allow nine million second doses across the UK, but said the government was “trying desperately” to not impact the vaccine rollout for younger people.
Prof Leitch said: “The Delta variant has changed the game in one crucial way.
“Everything still works – distancing, ventilation, handwashing all still works – but what’s new about the Delta variant, and this is horrid, and we’ve learned it increasingly over the last few weeks, is the second dose is required for decent protection.
“You get about 30% protection from one dose, you get 80 to 85% from two.
“So therefore, if you’re thinking of this as a timeline, we’ve lost about eight to 10 weeks on that journey.
“We vaccinated about half the country’s adults twice, now we need to get that up.”
The Scottish Government is now aiming to offer second doses eight weeks after the first, he explained, as he urged any eligible Scots waiting for their second dose to consider the “open access” vaccine clinics.
He continued: “We’re desperate to get those vaccines in just as quick as we can, and that will allow us to give advice to the First Minister that says ‘yes, the game has now changed; the vaccine is changing and we can begin to relax a little bit more’.”
Ahead of Scotland’s Euro 2020 match against the Czech Republic, Prof Leitch hoped fans would celebrate “safely” if they score or win.
He said: “Enjoy the game as much as you can like I will be doing, but just be – in the back of your mind – a little bit more cautious than maybe you were 23 years ago.”