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Scotland’s winter vaccination programme is underway this week for those eligible.

Invitations to book or attend an appointment have already been sent to those eligible for a flu vaccine by post, in a white NHS Scotland envelope, by email or text, depending on communication preferences.

As a precautionary measure, Public Health Scotland (PHS) and Scottish Government are now working closely with Health Boards to consider bringing winter vaccinations forward for those at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and COVID-19. This includes care home residents, those aged 75+ and those with weakened immune systems who were initially set to receive their vaccinations from mid-October.

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This change is being made following the identification of the newly identified COVID-19 variant of interest, BA.2.86 as detailed in PHS’s latest National Respiratory report.

Those eligible are encouraged to take up the vaccination offer when it comesThose eligible are encouraged to take up the vaccination offer when it comes
Those eligible are encouraged to take up the vaccination offer when it comes

Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and we strongly encourage those eligible to take up the vaccination offer when it comes. Viruses are always changing, and getting vaccinated every year is the best way to stay protected.

To prevent the spread of flu and COVID-19, we continue to advise staying home with any respiratory symptoms and to wash hands regularly.

Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science at PHS said: “We are continuing to monitor the emergence and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Scotland through our surveillance programme. While we are not concerned about the current levels of COVID-19, the identification of BA.2.86 in Scotland means that we are now working with Health Boards to ensure those most vulnerable to illness are protected this winter.

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness and those eligible are encouraged to book or attend their appointment when invited to do so. Coming forward when called will also help to alleviate pressures on local Health Boards who are working to deliver the winter vaccination programme at pace.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith said: “Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and the NHS from both COVID-19 and flu viruses, and I encourage everyone to help us maintain the high uptake rates we have seen over the past three years by coming froward for vaccination when they are called.”

“Work is ongoing to understand the new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 more fully, however as a precautionary measure, vaccination of people at highest risk such as care home residents and people aged 75 and over is being brought forward.”

The groups below are eligible for their flu vaccines this winter:

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  • aged 50 years and over
  • aged 18-49 with an eligible flu health condition
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • carers (including unpaid and young carers)
  • Teachers and support staff
  • Prison population and prison staff

While the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended flu vaccination for those aged 65 and above, it also advised on the potential benefits of extending this to 50-64 year olds and secondary school pupils.