Covid 19 variants: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

1. Any briefings prepared since February 2021 for Scottish ministers or officials on vaccine escaping Covid-19 variants

2. Any contingency plans held by the Scottish Government for a vaccine escaping Covid-19 variant.


The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for, however we keep the possibility of vaccine escape in mind in our planning.

It is important that we spot any changes to SARS-CoV-2 quickly to understand the potential risk any variant may pose. We have a comprehensive surveillance infrastructure in place, harnessing genomic sequencing and collaboration across scientific bodies to continually assess the risk of new variants emerging.

Variants are declared to be under investigation or of concern independently for the whole UK and risk assessments and technical briefings are made available. The public health agencies do not hesitate to designate a new VUI or VOC when the evidence demonstrates this.

There is universal genomic sequencing (where possible) of all positive specimens as they arise and allele-specific PCR can be used to help speed up detection of variants pending sequencing. Wider surveillance approaches include sequencing of wastewater samples.

We will take any necessary measures to react appropriately to emerging data. For example, data on the incidence of infection among vaccinated people are gathered for Scotland. Risk assessments on variants, including their potential for escaping natural or vaccine induced immunity, are developed for all Four Nations. Emerging findings of concern can be assessed and escalated to quickly prepare recommendations to Ministers.

Cases and clusters are rapidly investigated by health protection professionals, supported by Public Health Scotland. Additional control measures, such as community testing, can be rolled out when health protection professionals think this is necessary.

JCVI closely monitor the effectiveness of the currently deployed vaccines against any variants based on data analysed by PHE and PHS and make recommendation to all devolved administrations on vaccination policy as appropriate. Maintaining international border controls, managed quarantine and monitored isolation remain important in the prevention of importation.

All COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are actively engaged in tracking variants and developing the vaccine capability to be able to confront variants as they emerge. Trials are being carried out to prove ongoing efficacy against emerging variants

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

However, you may wish to contact Public Health Scotland at Freedom of Information (FOI) and Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests - Contact us - Public Health Scotland who may be able to help you.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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