Information

COVID-19 details of vaccine passports, vaccine policy and covid isolation: FOI release

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


Information requested

Information on a variety of issues including - Vaccine Passports, Testing, and Injections for Children. We have broken down the key components of your request as they were handled by different areas. The separate sections are then numbered for ease of understanding. We have identified 10 main questions from your request as below:

1. Why are the constituent Governments of the UK hounding young adults, including children in schools, to get the vaccine…? Isn’t it the case that young people, excluding those with immunosuppressed conditions, will have the strongest immune systems of all the age groups and don’t need the vaccine?

2. Introducing vaccine passports for everyday activities is segregation by any other name… Is it the Government’s intention to introduce a two tier society or this type of approach?

3. Please explain your thinking and provide evidence to support making vaccination (compulsory for carers in nursing and care homes) for Covid only, over other conditions…. If someone refuses the vaccine and loses their job - are they able to apply for universal credit, or are they prevented from receiving any Government support? If they can’t apply for universal credit, what can they apply for? In what other forms of employment will unvaccinated people be discriminated against? Is the Scottish Government determined to split society…..?

4. Can you provide evidence that COVID-19 has been isolated and that it can be physically seen under a microscope, and that it has passed the postulate tests? …. If Covid has been isolated, then surely the flu and the common cold have been similarly isolated also. Can you confirm and provide evidence of this?

5. A Covid death is defined as being within 28 days of a positive test result. I have heard… of… instances where someone has died of of choking, (etc) and they were all recorded as a Covid death. Surely this is grossly misleading and can only have been done to inflate the Covid death total? I understand that the ONS website in England shows that over the last 50 years, the worst year for deaths was 1972.2020 comes in at number 39 !! - how is that possible?

6. The evidence sessions during the inquiry should be under oath, can you confirm that they will be? If not, why not?

7. If you get tested regularly, can anyone be certain that any positive result is accurate?... I wonder how many people have wrongly thought they have had Covid?

8. What number of cycles are Scottish (Covid) tests calibrated at?

9. Can you confirm that all the Covid related research carried out by the Scottish Government has been ‘truly’ independent and that the outcomes have not been discussed at length beforehand with the researchers or others involved? … is independent really independent, or just a non government view that’s been bought to firmly sell an idea to a gullible public?

10. The First Minister has said numerous times that nobody wants to put restrictions in place for longer than necessary. So why is the Government seeking to permanently retain the powers required to lockdown the country etc?

Response

I enclose a copy of the information you requested.

The answers to your questions are as follows:

1. Informed consent is integral to the vaccination programme, and has required the development of detailed information for young people and their parents or carers to allow them to make an informed decision on vaccination, as well as ensuring the workforce are fully trained and have materials to support discussions on informed consent. Further information on consent for vaccinations for eligible 12 to 15-year-olds can be found on NHS Inform: Vaccinating 12 to 15 year olds | NHS inform. A new leaflet from Public Health Scotland will be circulated (also available here: COVID-19 vaccine information for young people in English (healthscotland.com)). Whilst we strongly encourage those eligible to receive coronavirus vaccination to do so, the decision is one of personal choice and the Scottish Government has no current plans to introduce mandatory vaccination or to impose any penalties relating to this. As individuals, we all respond differently to vaccination. Our bodies take different times to develop antibodies and some people, regardless of age, do not develop antibodies to the threshold levels at which antibody tests register a positive result. These differences between individuals and how we respond are what scientists are trying to understand about what they mean for controlling the spread of the virus.

2. Mandatory vaccine certification in certain areas has been introduced as a proportionate measure which can help us to reduce transmission risks, reduce the risk of serious illness and death and in doing so alleviate pressure on the healthcare system and to encourage uptake of the vaccine. From 5am on 1 October 2021, COVID vaccine certificates are needed to get into the following higher risk settings in Scotland:

  • late night premises with music, which serve alcohol at any time between midnight and 5am and
  • have a designated place for dancing for customers
  • indoor events (unseated) with 500 or more people
  • outdoor events (unseated) with 4,000 or more people
  • any event with more than 10,000 people

Please note that certification is used as a targeted and proportionate means to reduce risk while maximising our ability to keep open certain premises and events where transmission is a higher risk. Please be assured that the rights of all individuals including those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical and other reasons have been duly considered. The scheme has been introduced after extensive deliberation with various stakeholder and after conducting relevant impact assessments. The following people are exempt from the scheme:

  • under 18s
  • participants in vaccine trials
  • people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons
  • the person responsible for the premises
  • people working or performing in the venues
  • emergency services responders and regulators carrying out their work

Those who are exempt on medical reasons will receive a secure paper exemption certificate in the post and this certificate will allow them to access settings throughout the UK in the same way as those who are fully vaccinated. For further information about exemptions please see COVID Status Guidance: common questions and Coronavirus (COVID-19): vaccine certification scheme - information for customers - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).

3. Whether a vaccination is required to work somewhere is a matter for an employee and the company, however the company involved must comply with any applicable legislation and relevant government guidance. Information on employment rights can be found on Citizens Advice Scotland, and here: Supporting staff to get vaccinated: Getting the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine for work - Acas. General employment support is available here: Employment support - gov.scot (www.gov.scot). As I am sure you understand, the Scottish Government is unable to provide advice on individual circumstances, and if legal advice is needed, then this would have to be sought independently. The Scottish Government remains committed to vaccination programs and while we strongly recommend that individuals eligible to receive vaccinations do so, vaccinations are not mandatory in any sector currently, and it remains a personal choice whether an individual chooses to receive one.

4. The scientific basis supporting the government’s response to the SARS-Cov-2 virus is available on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) website, including information on the identification/isolation of the virus and any variants, a link to the website is provided here: Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Regarding identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus - Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy. Throughout the epidemic, having a clear route for synthesising scientific evidence and presenting that to Government is important. To do this, scientific advice is provided by the Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group, details of which can be found at Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group - gov.scot (www.gov.scot). The Scottish Government is informed by SAGE, and its sub groups. Details can be found at: List of participants of SAGE and related sub-groups - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). To assist you with your query, multiple scientific papers that are publically accessible, have documented that they were able to isolate SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of Covid-19. The following hyperlink will direct you to some of the papers that detail the isolation of the virus. Isolation of SARS-COV-2 - Google Scholar.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. Further information on UK flu data is available here: Sources of UK flu data: influenza surveillance in the UK - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) as the Scottish Government does not hold this information.

5. There are two different measures that each have a valuable role in helping to monitor the number of deaths in Scotland involving COVID-19:

Scottish Government daily updates
These are provided by Health Protection Scotland (HPS) and count all people who have had a positive test for COVID-19 and died within 28 days of their first positive test. These are important because they are available earlier, and give a quicker indication of what is happening day by day and are broadly comparable with the figures released daily for the UK by the Department for Health and Social Care.

NRS weekly death totals
The figures in this publication count all deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate by the doctor who certified the death. This includes cases where the doctor noted that there was suspected or probable coronavirus infection involved in the death. As a result these weekly totals are likely to be higher than the daily figures - because the daily updates only include those who tested positive for the virus. Using the complete death certificate allows NRS to analyse a lot of information, such as location of death and what other health conditions contributed to the death. The NRS report on deaths involving coronavirus is published here Deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland | National Records of Scotland (nrscotland.gov.uk)

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. The Scottish Government does not hold information concerning the England data for the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

6. The Scottish Government cannot comment on public inquiries that may or may not happen in the future. For your information - a statutory public inquiry can compel witnesses to give evidence under oath, whereas a non-statutory inquiry cannot.

7. No test is perfect, and understanding the limitations of the tests we currently use is important. If we assume tests are perfect, and that results always accurate, we put others at risk. In PCR testing, the key risks are false negative results – where a test is negative but the person tested does actually have COVID-19 and is infectious – and occasions where the test is positive but the person tested is not infectious. False negative results can happen if a swab misses collecting cells infected with the virus, or if virus levels are low – for example, at the start of an infection. The risk to others of false negative results is clear – an infectious person who receives a negative result risks transmitting the virus to others, including vulnerable people who can suffer very severe harm. In certain situations, testing again after a number of days – when levels of the virus may be higher and therefore detectable – can reduce the risk of false negative results having serious consequences.

Weak positive results can happen when the swab picks up fragments of the virus from an individual who is no longer infectious. Laboratories in Scotland have now implemented confirmation testing (or repeat testing) in certain circumstances to confirm whether weak positive test results are actually infectious cases. Further information is available here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland's testing strategy - adapting to the pandemic - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).

8. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. The Scottish Government does not hold information on the individual cycle thresholds used for every RT- PCR test in use, as the validation and interpretation of the test results are carried out by the individual laboratory performing the test. The Cycle Threshold (CT) value is the number of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) cycles that it takes before the virus is first detected; the lower the CT value the higher the level of virus in the original sample. Each manufacturer of the RT-PCR test will recommend a differing maximum amplification cycle number when determining the presence of SARS CoV-2, but a maximum of around 40 amplification cycles is typically recommended by test manufacturers.

NHS Scotland Laboratories have a protocol in place to carry out confirmation testing (or repeat testing) in certain circumstances to confirm whether low positive test results should be reported as positive or negative. For information regarding testing in the UK Lighthouse system network please contact the UK Government.

9. You express concern that research for the Scottish Government is not truly independent. There are checks and balances in place to ensure this not the case throughout the commissioning process, conducting of the research and publication of the findings. For example, Covid-related social research has been governed by a series of ethical principles set out in the GSR Professional Guidance “Ethical Assurance for Social and Behavioural Research in Government”. These principles require social researchers to conform to professional and ethical standards to protect against distortion and bias in the interpretation of findings and requires findings and evidence presented to adhere to departmental and government quality assurance guidance. Further information on how Government is working to ensure quality analysis can be found in the HMG Aqua Book.

The Scottish Government’s Social Research Publication Protocol sets out the conditions that must be adhered to for the publication of all social research produced by the Scottish Government. These principles oblige the Scottish Government to make all government social research publicly available, and this includes research that may not support the government’s policy position. The protocol explicitly requires that the publication of findings and report content should not be influenced by political concerns.

For other Covid related research e.g. the R value and growth rates are estimated by several independent modelling groups based in universities, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), as well as Scottish Government. Estimates are then considered, discussed and combined at the Epidemiology Modelling Review Group (EMRG), which sits within the UKHSA. This ensures a wide range of models are taken into account when providing modelling estimates for Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office (CSO) also issued two open competitive calls to Scottish research institutions for applications for research relating to COVID-19.

The conduct and reporting of the research projects stemming from these calls are independent of CSO and the Scottish Government. Funded projects are led by researchers in research institutions. Information about the lead researchers and research institutions as well as the projects themselves are available of the CSO website: Rapid Research in Covid-19 programme – Chief Scientist Office (scot.nhs.uk) and Long Covid Call – Chief Scientist Office (scot.nhs.uk). When projects are completed, short public summary reports are prepared by the researchers for publication on the above CSO webpages. Before they are made available on the CSO website, reports are reviewed in terms of the clarity of the reporting by members of the CSO Public Engagement Group who are volunteer members of the public (Public Engagement Group – Chief Scientist Office (scot.nhs.uk)).

10. To help manage the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Parliament passed two Bills in 2020. These became the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 and the Coronavirus (No.2) (Scotland) Act 2020 (“the Scottish Acts”). The changes to the law in Part 1 of each of these Acts are due to expire on 30 September 2021. This new Bill extends Part 1 of each of these Acts until 31 March 2022. This means that the changes to the law in Part 1 of each of these Acts will continue to be the law until that time. Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill (parliament.scot).

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
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