Scottish Government preparing for booster Covid jags from September

The Scottish Government is preparing to deliver booster Covid-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable from September.

If it goes ahead, the programme will see a third dose of vaccine offered as soon as possible from September to all over 70s, frontline health and social care workers, residents of care homes for older people, and all over 16s who are clinically vulnerable.

A third dose would then be offered to all over 50s in a second stage.

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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued interim advice to the UK and devolved governments to plan for booster jags while the committee continues to consider scientific advice over the next few months.

John Elphinstone receives a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, administered by Practice Nurse Marianne Stewart, at Pentlands Medical Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A final decision will be made before September. This will take into account the Covid situation, additional data, evidence around how long vaccines last for and new variants.

It comes as a new record for case numbers was set on Wednesday, with 3,887 reported.

Health boards have warned of increasing pressure, and NHS Tayside has opened a new Covid ward at Ninewells hospital in Dundee, where the case rate is the highest in the country.

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NHS Highland has also warned of “unprecedented” levels of demand for services.

Both health boards said the pressure had been heightened by high numbers of staff self-isolating after having come into contact with a positive case.

Dr Pamela Johnston, operational medical director at NHS Tayside said, “As the number of new cases of Covid-19 across Tayside continues to rise, we are seeing an increase in demand on our services."

She added: “What is different for the hospital this time is that there are more emergency surgical and medical patient admissions than at the start of the year and than during the previous waves."

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Dundee’s case rate is currently 765 per 100,000 people, while the rate in Scotland is 359. In the Highland council area it is 189.

New figures from Public Health Scotland on Wednesday showed almost 2,000 people with Covid-19 attended an event linked to the Euros while infectious.

Nearly two-thirds of them, 1,294 people, travelled to London. Just 397 of these attended the Scotland versus England match at Wembley Stadium, despite warnings from officials not to travel south without a ticket for the game.

A recent spike in Covid cases has been linked to football fans, with health secretary Humza Yousaf pointing both to fans gathering and to possible spread on the journey to London in coaches.

Mr Yousaf has welcomed the JCVI advice on booster vaccines.

The Scottish Government is working with health boards to prepare for booster vaccines from September, he said.

He said: “The committee will consider additional scientific data as it becomes available over the next few months ahead of formulating final advice. In the meantime we have been working closely with NHS boards to plan for this potential booster campaign, in line with this interim advice.

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“The current Covid-19 vaccination programme continues at pace and remains on schedule to complete adult first doses ahead of target next month, and second doses in September. It remains vital that everyone has both doses of the vaccine for greatest protection.

"To make this as easy as possible, the number of drop-in clinics for everyone over the age of 18 is being increased across the country.”

UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our Covid-19 vaccination programme has been a roaring success, with almost 85 per cent of adults across the UK receiving a first dose and more than per cent getting both doses.

“We are now planning ahead to future-proof this progress and protect our most vulnerable from variants and flu ahead of the winter.

“Vaccines are the best way to stay on top of this virus and I urge everybody to take up the offer as soon as possible.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stressed the importance of the vaccine rollout to Scotland’s easing of restrictions.

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