Giving all adults in Scotland a Covid booster jag by the end of January is “hopefully achievable” but will not be easy, a public health expert has warned.
Professor Linda Bauld said the target, which has been set by both the Scottish and UK Governments for offering people a third dose of coronavirus vaccine, is “very ambitious”
She spoke out after a number of people reported being turned away from vaccination centres when they went for their boosters, in the wake of changed advice from experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Having previously advised that people should wait for six months after their second dose of a vaccine before coming forward for another jag, the JCVI announced this week that booster doses can be given after three months.
But a number of people took to social media to complain that, despite this change, they have not yet been able to get their third injection.
However, Prof Bauld, of Edinburgh University, said the change is a “big logistical undertaking” and that people “can’t just click a finger after the JCVI made these announcements and get the whole system to shift”.
It is hoped that providing booster doses more rapidly, and giving them to all adults, will help combat the threat posed by the new Omicron variant, which has now been found in Scotland.
Speaking about the target of offering everyone a booster by the end of January, Prof Bauld described it as “very ambitious, but hopefully achievable”.
The expert told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I heard the stories of people turning up and expecting to get their second dose within three months.
“You know you can’t just click a finger after the JCVI made these announcements and get the whole system to shift. It is a big logistical undertaking.
“People will be able to bring forward that second dose and get it within three months for those that are eligible quite soon, but we need to give the system a few days just to sort that out.
“It is going to have to deliver, I understand, about a million additional doses with the groups that are now eligible. I am sure it can be done, but it is not going to be easy.”
Confirming the plan to follow the JCVI advice to offer boosters to all eligible over-18s, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are aiming to offer the booster vaccine to everyone aged 18 or older who is eligible by the end of January, in line with the JCVI’s advice, and we will confirm our approach to deployment very soon.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney told Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee on Thursday morning that the updated booster guidance has been reiterated to health boards in an attempt to stop people being wrongly turned away.
“I regret very much that some individuals had the experience they had yesterday because the guidance changed and that should have been applied in all vaccination centres and scenarios,” he said.
“The fact that people are so willing to come forward for the booster jab at such an early stage after the change of guidance is an indication of the public attitude to participate in the programme, which is welcome – which makes it doubly disappointing that people were inconvenienced in the way that they were.”
Mr Swinney also revealed that the Covid-19 vaccination status app is due to be updated on December 9 to allow Scots to prove they have had their booster dose, to meet the requirement of some European countries coming into effect on December 15.