Why the Covid-19 threat remains very real for Scotland - Dr Gwenetta Curry

As summer has come to an end, Scotland’s winter vaccination program has begun on September 4.

Both the flu and Covid-19 vaccinations will be offered for the most vulnerable populations. Overall vaccinations are strongly encouraged and have been seen as the best form of protection from having a serious reaction to Covid-19.

The vaccine has overall been successful in reducing the number of deaths and hospitalisations because of the Sars-CoV-2. The rollout of the vaccine has allowed many to return to their way of life before the pandemic, attending various social and entertainment events without the anxiety of being infected.

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Unfortunately, this current program does not include those who are considered vulnerable, which is vastly different from the process in other countries such as the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of September 12, everyone over the age of six months is recommended to get the updated vaccine.

Now there is a new variant that has arrived on the shores of the UK and many are asking if we are ready for Pirola or BA.2.86.

It is not surprising that new variants continue to pop up every few months as viruses are very resilient. As of September 10, there were 251 acute admissions to the hospital due to Covid-19.

These numbers pale in comparison to what we were seeing before the vaccine, but they remain concerning as we enter the fall and winter months. We are more than two years on from the start of the pandemic and protective measures have been greatly reduced.

Although the World Health Organisation has announced the end of the global pandemic; the threat remains very real for certain groups and wearing masks seems to be the only source of protection they have to the latest variant. While many have abandoned the idea of wearing masks, many people have chosen to continue to wear masks even though the numbers are significantly lower than they were during the peak of the pandemic.

While someone choosing to wear a mask should be their personal choice, for some it seems to invoke a negative response from others.

Last month actor Will Keenan was attacked for his mask-wearing habits and left permanently blinded in one eye. These attacks are very concerning as people continue to wear masks to protect themselves and possibly vulnerable loved ones. During the pandemic, there were plenty of public health announcements to encourage people to mask in indoor spaces.

As we move into winter and respiratory illnesses increase, people should be sure to remain aware of the threats to health and well-being.

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The vaccine rollouts will hopefully become more available for the rest of the population to help maintain low levels of hospitalisation. This is a reminder that the NHS remains strained and has not fully recovered from the damage caused by the pandemic.

- Dr Gwenetta Curry is a lecturer in race, ethnicity and health at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine in the University of Edinburgh



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