Covid-19 vaccine uptake among young men in Tayside is at the lowest rate in the country as thousands of people exposed to the virus are unable to attend appointments.
Just 54% of men aged 18-29 have been vaccinated despite other health board areas in Scotland reaching over 70%.
Infection rates one of highest in Europe
The area needs to increase vaccinations to stop infections rising, which recently reached one of the highest levels in Europe.
But the high case rate among young people, the majority of which have been men in recent weeks, is preventing many in the current cohort from going to their appointments.
This could be due to either self-isolating for 10 days or because they have tested positive.
Anyone testing positive must wait 28 days from that date to get a jag.
The catch-22 situation is causing headaches for the public health team at NHS Tayside who are keen to get thousands more doses delivered.
Microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington says those contracting the virus will develop significant protection in antibodies so that will still boost community immunity.
He said: “Having lots of people locked up and unable to get their vaccine is an interesting situation.
“You could look at it in a positive way in that for the people testing positive, it is almost equivalent to having a vaccine because they will have natural immunity.
“Nobody quite knows whether that is as good or whether it’s even better than a vaccine.
“For close contacts having to self-isolate and missing appointments, that is more of a problem of course.”
Prof Pennington said he does not believe young people are as reluctant to get vaccinated as was originally predicted.
He added: “In the beginning of the roll-out, many were worried that there would be much better uptake among the elderly than the young.
“But actually it’s not been as dramatic as people feared and young people have been turning up to get them.”
NHS Tayside is putting on drop-in clinics to tackle the issue.
Anyone aged 18 or over who hasn’t had their first jag can visit eight different venues this week across Dundee, Perth & Kinross, and Angus.
They are also open to those who have waited eight weeks or more since their first jab.
As of Monday, there are 60 patients requiring hospital care for Covid-19 with 10 in critical care.
The patients are from all age ranges. Some have been fully vaccinated, some have had one dose, and some have not been vaccinated.
Dr Emma Fletcher, director of public health at NHS Tayside, said: “We have seen a slowly improving situation in Tayside over the past few days, however we must remain cautious and we need everyone to work together to make this a sustained downward trend in the number of new infections.
“Covid-19 is still circulating widely throughout our communities and new cases continue to be identified every day.
“Our message remains the same – please get vaccinated, get tested regularly and keep following the FACTS guidance.
“Meet outdoors where possible and keep indoor areas well ventilated.”
Part of the reason for Tayside and specifically Dundee’s high case rate is believed to be because of the large number of young people living in Dundee.
The larger proportion of young people, the smaller the percentage of the population will be vaccinated at this stage.
And just as case numbers started to rise in late May and early June, the health board made the decision to prioritise second doses for older groups over first doses for young people.
It meant some young people locally had to wait longer to be vaccinated compared to other parts of Scotland.