Coronavirus (COVID-19): highest risk - survey report - July 2021

Results from an online survey conducted by the Scottish Government Shielding Division in July 2021 with people at highest clinical risk from Covid-19.

Easing restrictions

In the weeks leading up to the launch of the survey, Scotland moved down restriction levels. The week that it went live, the First Minister made an announcement about the move to Level 0 from 19 July, and people at highest risk received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer advising what this meant for them.

59% of respondents (n4516) said they felt uncomfortable about the move towards Level 0 and beyond in Scotland. The most common reasons provided from those who felt uncomfortable (n2462) included:

  • the behaviour of others (100%)
  • high case numbers (92%)
  • the measures in place did not make them feel safer (56%)
  • being unsure about how effective the vaccine was for them (46%)

Some respondents also chose to share further detail about what specifically was concerning them about the moves towards Level 0. It is important to note that at this stage, evidence as to the efficacy of the vaccine for those at highest risk, and in particular for the immunosuppressed, was emerging. Later published reports, including one by the University of Edinburgh demonstrate clearly the efficacy of the vaccine for this group.

An extract of some of the responses is provided to illustrate some of the issues underlying people’s discomfort with the easing of restrictions.

“My children have not been vaccinated or at school for a year and a half since shielding, they and us will have weak immune systems, my partner is immune suppressed he has no spleen, winter flu is also a high danger to him, it has been advised the vaccine will have less effect with those immune suppressed, and as given the astra [zenica vaccine] which is the weaker vaccine statistically he will have little cover…”

“Media reports of poor outcomes for CLL [Chronic lymphocytic leukemia] patients and reports that CLL patient not mounting antibody response have frightened me...”

“Morally opposed to putting vulnerable people's lives at risk to help the less vulnerable return to 'normal’ life while we remained isolated and in a two tier society as we will have to continue shielding.”

“I want to have the vaccine but my condition makes it impossible to receive it so I feel unprotected. I also cannot receive hospital care due to my condition so the prospect of catching the virus is terrifying.”

How those at highest risk are feeling about the move towards Level 0 and beyond in Scotland

Chart showing responses to question asking how people were feeling about the move towards Level 0 and beyond in Scotland.
Very comfortable 6%
Fairly comfortable 23%
Neutral 12%
Fairly uncomfortable 36%
Very uncomfortable 23%
Response count 4517

Reasons why people at highest risk feel uncomfortable about the move to Level 0 and beyond

Chart showing responses to question asking why people at highest risk felt uncomfortable about the move to Level 0 and beyond.
Behaviour of others 100%
High case numbers 92%
The measures in place do not make me feel safer 56%
I am unsure how effective the vaccine is for me 46%
I have been advised by a healthcare professional to take extra care 32%
I have low trust in the test and trace and isolation process 28%
Inconsistent advice 26%
Lack of confidence in government advice 18%
I don’t understand the impact of Covid on my condition 14%
Lack of evidence 13%
Another reason 3%
Response count 2641



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