Vaccination remains one of our most effective public health interventions against this pandemic and we continue to deliver at pace. We delivered over 8 million COVID-19 vaccinations during the first phase of the programme - between December 2020 and September 2021 - guided by clinical advice at all times and delivering as quickly as supply permitted. Since 6 September, we have delivered a further 3 million vaccinations which has included over 1.2 million COVID-19 boosters and third doses. By 15 November, over 93% of over 18s had received a first dose and over 88% a full dose. This exceeded our initial planning assumption of 80% and is testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the delivery of the programme.
To protect more people in Scotland, we expanded our eligibility criteria for under 18s and updated our policies on COVID-19 third doses (for severely immunosuppressed individuals) and COVID-19 boosters extending the protection being offered through vaccination.
As of 15 November, 76% of 16 to 17 year olds had received a first dose of the vaccine. The vaccine is now also being offered to 12 to 15 year olds. Significant progress has been delivered with over 56% receiving a first dose of the vaccine by 15 November. This is being delivered in parallel to a booster for eligible people who received their primary dose some time ago. The JCVI has advised that the booster dose can be given alongside the influenza jab. Booster vaccinations can usually only take place six months after the second dose, although there is now further flexibility to offer vaccination in some operational circumstances after five months and in some clinical situations after four months.
We will continue to deliver the largest ever vaccination programme over the autumn and winter period, offering vaccinations to approximately 7.5 million eligible people including over 3 million COVID-19 and over 4 million influenza vaccinations. Although this is slightly less than the 8 million delivered during phase 1 of the programme, these are required to be delivered in half the time. The range of vaccination activity being delivered includes:
- COVID-19 boosters in line with current JCVI advice;
- Third doses for the severely immunocompromised;
- Single doses to 12 to 15 year olds;
- A universal offer of a second dose for 16 and 17 year olds;
- Rolling offer of first and second doses to anyone not fully vaccinated;
- Childhood influenza; and
- Adult seasonal influenza.
The autumn/winter vaccination programme is a key element to protecting the population and why seasonal influenza eligibility has been expanded to include secondary school children and some occupational groups such as educational and prison staff. This is the largest ever flu vaccination programme reaching over 4.4 million people. This is one million more than were eligible last year.
We have now moved towards a system that enables online self-booking. The portal for adults aged 50 to 59 and those aged over 16 who are unpaid carers and household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals opened on Monday 15 November, allowing those and anyone eligible who have not yet received an appointment to book online. On the first day of the portal opening an average of 5,000 appointments an hour were being booked and 800 an hour via the helpline amounting to a total of 42,000 bookings. A guide has also been included on NHS Inform to help individuals understand whether they are eligible for flu or a booster vaccination and how and when they will be invited.
We continue to ensure our delivery model is person-centred and meets the needs of local communities, tailoring our approach by learning from what works. We are also urgently exploring how we can increase capacity, for example by establishing additional clinics, particularly at evenings and weekends. Given the record volumes of vaccines already being delivered, we are supporting NHS Boards to identify, recruit and train additional staff, including healthcare students and those in primary care such as GPs, GP practice staff, dentists and pharmacists.
We will continue to prioritise based on clinical advice, and deliver using our well established vaccination infrastructure, building on our learning from earlier in the programme.
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