Covid-19 (Spring Booster Vaccination)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd June 2022.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

4. To ask the First Minister, in light of the increase in Covid-19 cases, what measures the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that everyone eligible for the spring booster vaccine receives it. (S6F-01272)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

As at 20 June, 91 per cent of those aged 75 and over, and 86 per cent of elderly care home residents, have received a fourth dose of the Covid vaccine, the majority of which have been administered as part of the spring booster programme. Again, I express my gratitude to all NHS staff and partners who helped to achieve that uptake.

We have been working closely with health boards to encourage uptake, and have introduced a range of outreach activities to build trust or remove barriers for people who might not otherwise take up the vaccination offer. Those include using mobile outreach units that have been provided by the Scottish Ambulance Service, creating “Covid sense” posters in multiple languages and formats, and developing a culturally sensitive vaccine explainer video that is informed by insights from organisations that represent various communities.

Given the high number of cases that we are seeing right now, I take this opportunity to urge all those who are eligible for the vaccine, including the spring booster, to come forward and get that protection.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I thank the First Minister for her detailed answer. As someone who has had her spring booster, I endorse the statement that she has made, especially as we are now seeing cases rising.

Further to that, with cases reportedly being at one in 30—undoubtedly, that is an underestimate—and the number of hospital admissions rising, we can all see where we might be heading if we throw caution to the winds. I am as sick of restrictions as the next person, but what should we be doing, as individuals and in commercial situations, to try to nip this in the bud and prevent ourselves from heading towards a restricted winter?

The First Minister:

We are seeing a rising trend in cases at the moment. We consider that it is being driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron. It is important that we continue to monitor that, so the Scottish Government will continue to monitor it very closely. None of us wants a return to restrictions of any nature.

At this stage, we are not seeing the translation into hospital cases that we saw at earlier stages of the pandemic, particularly before there were vaccinations, but that does not mean that the illness is mild for everyone. Having recently had Covid, I know that it is a nasty virus and that it can affect people seriously. Christine Grahame is therefore right to remind us that it is important to continue to take precautions in order to try to limit potential transmission of the virus. Above all, it is important that people who are eligible for any dose of the vaccine but have not had yet had that dose get it, because it provides significant protection against serious illness.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

Covid cases have been rising, hospital admissions are rising and long Covid cases are going up. It is more than six months since many people had their third vaccination, including people who are in the shielding category because of health conditions. Protection through vaccination is, therefore, now waning.

Will the First Minister bring forward the autumn vaccination programme to the summer, given that we are facing another wave of Covid infection? In the light of the press conference that was held by Long Covid Scotland today, what urgent action will she take to improve services for and research into the condition?

The First Minister:

We continue to monitor very carefully the effects of vaccination, informed by expert scientific and clinical opinion. It is important to be responsible about the terminology and the language that we use about the impact of vaccinations.

On the timing and coverage of a vaccination programme, or phase of a vaccination programme—this applies to the autumn campaign—we will continue to be guided by the advice and recommendations of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. That is the responsible thing to do. The Government has acted quickly to ensure that recommended vaccinations get to all eligible people as quickly as possible, and we will continue to do that.

On long Covid, we are investing this year to support NHS boards and partners to improve the care and support that is available for people with long Covid. The investment that we are making will, for example, enable boards to introduce care co-ordinator roles so that there is a single point of contact for people with long Covid. It will provide extra resource to support person-centred thorough assessments of the needs of people with long Covid to ensure that they can be supported to access the most appropriate support for them. It will also provide additional capacity for community rehabilitation services to support people who are suffering from long Covid with the issues that affect their day-to-day lives.