The COVID-19 Vaccination Programme in Scotland continues to be highly effective. As of 28 September 2021, 92% of people aged 18 and over have received their first dose vaccination and 86% have received their second dose vaccination in Scotland. We have now administered 8 million vaccines across Scotland which demonstrates the incredible ability of the NHS and our wider partners to respond in unprecedented circumstances.
As we move towards the autumn and winter months, it is vital we build on our achievements to continue delivering COVID-19 vaccinations, including third doses and boosters to those eligible, alongside seasonal influenza (flu) vaccinations. This year, more people than ever will be offered the free flu vaccine to help protect as many lives as possible this winter. It is vital for vaccination programmes to reach everyone and that no one is left unprotected, both for individual health and our collective community wellbeing.
In our COVID-19 Deployment Plan published in July, I outlined the next steps in our approach to vaccinating 12 to 17 year olds. Since then, Scottish Ministers have accepted advice from the four UK Chief Medical Officers to offer a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children and young people aged 12 to 15 years. Drop-in clinics became available for this group from Monday 20th September. From the following week, Monday 27 September 2021, we also began offering these children and young people an appointment via a letter at a local community clinic or letter for a school vaccination session.
We also accepted the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation's (JCVI) recent advice which expanded the list of underlying health conditions which make clinically vulnerable 12 to 15 year olds eligible for vaccination. This expanded offer has come in addition to the clinically vulnerable 12 to 15 year olds already being offered vaccination but, in line with this advice, this group will be offered two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Of course, the offer of vaccination to children and young people must be accompanied by information which clearly explains the benefits and potential side effects of vaccination as part of the informed consent process prior to vaccination. We have created a range of resources to support young people and their parents and carers to help them make their decision.
I encourage young people to discuss the information with their parents or carers and to speak to vaccinators for any further information they need. It is important they know individual choice will always be respected.
The wellbeing of young people is our priority. They have been impacted during the pandemic by disruption to their education and separation from friends. We must do all we can to minimise further interruption to their education. This will be particularly important over the autumn and winter period.
Clear communication, engagement with partners, including local government, third sector and community organisations and community targeted outreach have all proved valuable in making the vaccination programme more inclusive. This learning is being embedded and built upon.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to all those who have been involved in the vaccination programme and to those who continue to support it as we move forward. This includes the NHS, local government and volunteers as well as faith, third sector and community groups who have all supported our efforts to deliver an inclusive national programme.
I would also like to thank everyone in Scotland who has come forward for their COVID-19 vaccination in unprecedented numbers so far. The vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease, and getting fully vaccinated remains the best way to be protected against the virus. I urge anyone who is eligible and not yet vaccinated to book an appointment or attend a drop-in clinic at the earliest opportunity. Likewise, this year more than ever, it is important to get the flu vaccine if you are eligible to ensure maximum protection this autumn and winter.
We are developing a rolling vaccination offer so anyone eligible who wishes to be vaccinated, can come forward. Their eligibility does not have an end point so they can come forward at any time – we will provide details soon.
Vaccination, along with testing, remains our best protection against the impacts of the pandemic and it is crucial people continue to come forward. Scotland's current vaccination programme is designed to reach everyone and ensure no-one is left unprotected. Thank you for everything you have done to date to keep you and your community safe – while we have made great progress, we can't leave the job half-done.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care