We have accelerated the Autumn/Winter Vaccination Programme in recent weeks, acting on new clinical advice and emerging concerns around the Omicron variant. We want to ensure as many people as possible are best protected this winter. As vaccination remains one of our most effective public health interventions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are aiming to reach as close as possible to 80% uptake of those eligible for COVID-19 boosters or third doses by the end of December 2021.
The emergence of the Omicron variant is a very concerning development in the course of the pandemic. Omicron cases are increasing rapidly and faster than any variant before. It is likely that Omicron is more transmissible than previous SARS-CoV-2 variants, and it contains a number of mutations in the spike protein of the virus. Getting a booster dose is now more important than ever to augment the overall response to SARS-CoV-2 and the actions that have previously recommended to reduce transmission of other variants will also help to provide some protection against Omicron. Early analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has found that a booster dose may provide around 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron.
We have now administered more than 10.7 million COVID-19 vaccinations across Scotland since the programme began on 7 December 2020, including more than 2.8 million COVID-19 doses delivered since the Autumn/Winter Vaccination Programme began on 6 September 2021. This includes more than 2.3 million boosters or third primary doses and illustrates the sheer scale and pace of delivery in the most complex mass vaccination programme of our lifetime.
As a result of people responding to the call to come forward to be vaccinated, and the significant efforts of Health Boards and vaccination teams across the country, we have delivered a vaccination programme of which everyone in Scotland can be proud, and which is saving lives and reducing harm for our population. Recent analysis published by analysts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that more than 27,000 deaths have been prevented in Scotland through the COVID-19 vaccination programme, and the risk of symptomatic infection cut by 80% as a direct result of the rapid uptake of vaccinations.
We are, however, determined to go even faster in terms of our vaccination offer, and to continue to do everything possible to ensure all those eligible in Scotland are offered a COVID-19 booster by the end of the year.
This update to Scotland’s Autumn and Winter Vaccination Strategy sets out what we are doing to accelerate the roll-out of the vaccination programme in order to boost individual and population immunity to SARS-CoV-2, and to help keep ourselves and our loved ones as safe as possible.