Covid: How close is Scotland to full vaccination?

By Christophe Sleight
BBC News in Scotland

Image source, Getty Images

All adults in Scotland should now be offered a Covid-19 vaccination, according to NHS Scotland.

As vaccinations for over 12s begin and a vaccination certificate program is introduced, what has the Scottish vaccination program achieved in its first 296 days?

More than eight million doses have been administered since December

The Covid-19 vaccination program was the largest vaccination effort in the history of the NHS.

It all started in Scotland December 8 of last year, the vaccinators themselves being the first to receive the vaccines.

Since then 4,189,701 first doses have been administered, according to figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS), accounting for 91% of people aged 16 and over.

A total of 3,837,689 people also received a second dose.

To achieve 100% coverage of all Scots aged 16 and over, just over 709,000 people remain to be done.

Almost half of this group received their first dose, but the rest are still waiting or have decided not to get the vaccine.

Looking only at those over 40, over 95% are now fully vaccinated with both doses – and some will have started receiving boosters as well.

Image source, Getty Images

Professor Andrew Watterson, a public health researcher at the University of Stirling, says the Covid vaccination program really stands out from similar efforts.

“The deployment of the Covid vaccine goes far beyond anything that has existed to date for other infectious diseases in terms of pace and scale,” he said.

“The initial vaccination in nursing homes was really impressive. As of September 28, 2021, the double-dose vaccine figure for nursing home staff is 100%, for front-line health workers it is 93%, for front-line social workers it is 86 %. It’s excellent.”

But Professor Watterson believes that some high-risk groups, such as police officers, teachers and food processing workers, were left “significantly exposed” at the start of the vaccination program, unlike other European countries which. gave priority to these groups.

Scotland, like every other country in the UK, has followed the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization when it comes to determining who should get vaccinated first.

Residents of nursing homes for the elderly were given top priority, followed by the over-80s and frontline health and social workers.

All people over 50 were included in the priority list, as well as those with health problems that made them particularly vulnerable.

Virtually all over 60s in Scotland are now fully vaccinated and the overwhelming majority of over 50s are as well.

The Scottish Government has said the prioritization of vaccination has been “based on age and health risk factors, with key workers in these categories being among the first to be vaccinated”.

What about younger age groups?

Vaccination of those under 50 began in May and none of the younger age groups have yet exceeded 90% coverage for the first doses.

But looking at a graph showing immunizations over time with these groups, a trend becomes evident: the younger the age group, the lower the population coverage.

The exception to this trend could be the 16-17 age group.

The vaccination effort for most of these adolescents only started in August, but the coverage is already over 70% for the first doses.

Professor Watterson told BBC Scotland the Scottish government should continue to focus on vaccinating young people, with 37% of 18-29 year olds and 25% of 30-39 year olds still not fully immunized.

“Some of these groups are the most at risk and will be both high risk themselves and high risk for others,” he says.

“The double vaccination figures for a number of these groups have increased very slowly over the past several weeks.”

Has there been a vaccine passport rebound?

One of the goals of the Scottish Vaccine Passport is to encourage young people to get vaccinated.

As part of this program, people over the age of 18 may be asked to prove that they are fully vaccinated before they are allowed to enter certain places and events.

The policy was announced early last month and was formally approved by Holyrood on September 9.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on September 16, Scotland’s National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said it was “the first few days”, but he hoped there would be an “increase” in number of young people vaccinated because of the program.

Looking at the PHS figures which break down daily vaccinations by age group, we see a clear increase among 18-29 year olds in early September.

The drop in daily vaccinations throughout August is reversing and the numbers are starting to rise again.

Other factors, such as vaccine supply, can affect the number of daily vaccinations, so it is not possible to say for sure that this increase is directly related to the announcement of vaccine certificates – but this does not. does not appear to have hindered progress in this group.

How does the influenza vaccination program compare?

The flu is more seasonal than Covid, so vaccinations are targeted to fall and winter.

And while advertising campaigns are being carried out to encourage adoption, it’s fair to say that it has not received the level of attention of the Covid vaccination program, and certain groups will not be targeted for vaccination.

Professor Watterson points out Public Health Scotland figures for January, which show that the percentage of coverage in older groups and among health and social care workers is much lower than Covid vaccine coverage.

In England, the total influenza vaccination rate between 2004-2005 and 2019-2020 ranged between 71% and 75%, according to Professor Watterson.

What is the photo where you live?

All local authorities have now achieved at least 75% dose two coverage of the population over 16 years of age.

There is a big gap between Glasgow City at the bottom of the table (75.9%) and neighboring East Dunbartonshire at the top (92.9%).

However, it should be noted that local authorities with more young people will be further behind due to the way the vaccination program was rolled out.

What vaccines have been used in Scotland?

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines are being administered in Scotland, each requiring two doses.

More than 50% of the vaccines administered were the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Looking at all vaccine products, the highest number of vaccines given in one day was on February 11, when 65,249 vaccinations were performed.

There were four major vaccination campaigns during the winter and spring, but with fewer people to be vaccinated, the number of people vaccinated per day is now declining.

What is the evidence that vaccines work?

The clearest way to see how vaccinations have worked is to count the number of death certificates mentioning Covid-19.

Using figures from the National Records of Scotland, it is possible to see two large spikes in daily deaths – one in April 2020 and the second in January 2021.

The number of cases recorded this summer and fall was much higher than in January, but the number of deaths is much lower.

There are early indications that deaths may soon peak for this “wave” of the pandemic. If so, deaths will have peaked at about a quarter of the April 2020 level.

Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is also evidence that hospital stays for Covid treatment are shortening due to the vaccination schedule and figures recently released by Public Health Scotland seem to support this.

The average length of hospital stay was 13 days in January, but it had more than halved in June.

If the vaccines are working and population coverage is good, is it time to relax?

Professor Watterson says Scotland must continue to vaccinate to bring the pandemic under control.

“An incredible amount of work has been undertaken, but we cannot relax. We have to go further, ”he said.

He argues the Scottish government should also take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to Covid, like countries like New Zealand, rather than letting the number of cases go unchecked.

“Polio and smallpox have been targeted for eradication, but in Scotland the government appears to have accepted that Covid not only cannot be eradicated, but it also cannot be eliminated,” he said .

“It is worth thinking that if we had accepted that smallpox could not be eradicated on a global scale, we would still be living with it. Yet after a long deployment and global action, it disappeared in the 1970s. . “

Scottish government adjusted its “strategic intent” vis-à-vis the Covid in June, saying he wanted to “remove the virus to a level consistent with mitigating its damage while we recover and rebuild for a better future.”

A spokesperson told the BBC: ‘The Scottish vaccination program has been one of the fastest in the world, and we continue to urge all those who have not yet come forward to do so as it makes no doubts that vaccination is our best way out of the pandemic. and how best to protect ourselves, our family, friends and communities. “

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Edward L. Robinett

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