Ministers criticised over ‘mixed messages’ on booster vaccine eligibility

Concerns have been raised in Scotland that outdated advice is still being applied

Mark Davey
Wednesday 01 December 2021 20:04
A dose of the Pfizer booster jab is prepared (PA)
A dose of the Pfizer booster jab is prepared (PA)

“Mixed messages” over booster vaccine eligibility are leaving the public “frustrated and confused”, it has been suggested.

New guidance published this week by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says booster doses now should be given no sooner than three months after people have had their second dose of an original vaccine.

Previously, the advice said boosters should be given six months after a second dose.

Concerns have been raised in Scotland that the outdated advice is still being applied, with some people reporting on social media they have been turned away for appointments.

The JCVI changed their advice on the length of time between doses two days ago, but the SNP are dragging their heels on putting this into practice in our NHS

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary

A Scottish Government spokesperson said instructions have been issued to health boards to vaccinate in line with the JCVI’s latest guidance.

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for health Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “Patients are rightly frustrated and confused over mixed messages coming from the SNP Government on booster vaccine eligibility.

“We are facing an urgent and developing situation that requires immediate action.

“The JCVI changed their advice on the length of time between doses two days ago, but the SNP are dragging their heels on putting this into practice in our NHS.”

Scottish Labour’s health and Covid recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie added: “This is nothing short of a shambles.

“The need to accelerate our booster programme has never been greater, so we cannot have people being turned away.

“The change to JCVI guidance is clear, and all those eligible should be able to receive their booster as quickly as possible.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “Scotland is packed full of thoughtful and conscientious people who want to get their booster jab as swiftly as possible.

“It’s frustrating for them to hear that boosters can now be booked only to turn up and discover that the Health Secretary hasn’t sorted the logistics out with the NHS and they have to be turned away.

“I have been calling for months for the Government to put rocket boosters under the booster programme. I wish the Health Secretary had started laying the groundwork then, rather than having to patch things up in a hurry.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Following JCVI advice, clinical and legal guidance requires to be put in place for vaccination teams to implement the changes.

“This has been progressed urgently and instructions have now been issued to all health boards to vaccinate in line with the latest advice.

“The new guidance is also being updated on the NHS Inform website.

“We apologise to those people who have been keen to get their booster vaccination and attended before the necessary protocols were in place.

“Booster appointments are booked in advance via the portal, therefore the vast majority of appointments will not have been affected.”

All adults should be offered a coronavirus booster vaccination by the end of January, the Scottish Government has announced.

Scotland follows the rest of the UK in confirming that over-18s will be eligible for a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine three months after their second.

The UK-wide JCVI has advised that a third dose will help increase adults’ protection levels following the emergence of the new Omicron variant.

A total of 10 cases of Omicron have been discovered in Scotland.

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.”

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