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Jason Leitch: Fourth vaccine dose will ‘probably’ be needed ‘in next few years’

Covid vaccine centre in Scotland
What are your views on vaccination?

Scotland’s National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch, has said people will “probably” need a fourth dose of the Covid vaccine “in the next few years”, as the country’s booster rollout continues.

Yesterday there were 73,701 booster vaccines distributed around Scotland, slightly down on the 78,146 from the day before but still the second-highest daily vaccination total since the programme began.

However, the possibility of a fourth dose has been mooted in recent days, with health experts pointing to the inevitable waning of effectiveness over time.

Speaking to the BBC in a wide-ranging interview this morning, Prof Leitch mentioned that Israel has already announced a fourth shot for over-50s and those with pre-existing conditions.

Covid vaccine in Scotland: Track the rollout progress with these charts

He said: “It would seem that we will probably need some kind of timed booster or next dose over the next few years.

“We don’t know that for sure, it may be that we just offer that to the vulnerable, those who are maybe a bit older.

“Remember, immunity is like a dimmer switch, not a light switch, so if you can turn the dimmer switch up and keep it up, then that’s what you want to do, because this disease is at its worst when it gets to people without immunity.

“Whether that’s natural immunity, whether they’ve got a disease that affects their immunity, or they haven’t been for a vaccine.”

He added: “We will monitor people who have had third doses now, we will take blood from them, we’ll work out where their immunity is, and when that begins to wane over time, the Joint Committee on Vaccination will advise us to go and get…

“We just don’t know when that will be.”

Centres to close for Christmas

Unlike in England, vaccination centres will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Scotland.

Asked about the reasons for this decision, Mr Leitch said: “They’re just not very popular. We’re not expecting big queues or people wanting their appointment on Christmas Day.

“And let’s be clear: 82,000 vaccines a day over the last few days, it’s absolutely astonishing and the teams could do with a day off.”

Nation clinical director Jason Leitch.
Nation clinical director Jason Leitch.

Prof Leitch was also asked about the vaccine passport, or Covid certification scheme, after Glasgow nightclub owner Donald McLeod suggested it should be scrapped.

He agreed the system needed to be reviewed, but said his advice might be to make it more widely used rather than less.

He said: “We need to look at Covid certification in light of the new variant.

“I think, though, the public health advice would actually be probably to expand it, to allow more places to open in light of the work around the new variant.

“Most mainstream European countries now have a version of Covid certification to allow people to attend events and environments safely.”

Coronavirus in Scotland – track the spread with these charts

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