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Routine #Covid Testing Reduced & Winter Vaccination Programme

The Scottish Government has announced that routine COVID-19 testing in hospitals, care homes and prisons is to be substantially reduced in Scotland following clinical and scientific advice.

Public Health Scotland and Antimicrobial Resistance & Healthcare Associated Infection Scotland have recommended a return to pre-pandemic testing.

Routine testing will continue for patients moving from hospitals to care homes and will be reviewed based on future advice and outbreaks. Tests will also continue to be available for those eligible for antiviral treatment. The new guidance will come into effect by 30 August 2023.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith said:

“Due to the success of vaccines in protecting people, and the availability of improved treatments, now is the right time to revise the advice on routine COVID-19 testing across health and social care settings and prisons. This will ensure the testing regime remains effective and proportionate.

“Routine testing will remain when patients are discharged from hospital to care homes, to provide additional reassurance for these settings, and testing will still be required when clinically appropriate.

“The clinical advice tells us that focusing on the risk to individuals under general infection control procedures will allow our hospital, social care and prison staff to better protect those in their care and that there is no longer a requirement to apply separate COVID-19 guidance across the board when so many are now protected from its worst harms.”

Scotland’s winter vaccination programme for Covid and Flu will delivered at a local level by Health Boards across the country.

Flu Vaccinations

Everyone over 50 and those with certain conditions will be offered a flu vaccination. People aged 50-64 with no underlying health conditions, are now being called forward for appointments starting from 4 September. The expansion of the flu programme to include secondary school pupils continues this winter, with all school age pupils, children aged 2-5 and children aged 6 months to under 2 years at risk being eligible.

Flu & Covid Vaccinations

Both flu and COVID-19 vaccines will be offered to people most vulnerable to illness and, where possible, administered at the same time. Clinical advice and evidence shows that administration of both vaccines together is a safe and efficient way to deliver maximum protection.

JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) has advised that protection is highest in the three months following vaccination, so vaccinating those at highest risk of COVID-19 later provides greater protection over the peak winter period and into the new year.

Invitations to people aged 65-74 years of age with no underlying conditions and those aged 12-64 years in a clinical risk group (excluding those with a weakened immune system) that leaves them at greater risk from COVID-19 will be the first to receive invitations, with appointments starting from 18 September.  

Invitations for all other priority groups receiving both flu and COVID-19 vaccines will follow as the programme progresses. This includes people in care homes and those aged 75 and over who will receive invitations for appointments starting from mid-October.

Both of these groups were offered vaccination during the spring COVID-19 programme, so their immunity has received a recent boost.  

Stromness Surgery Orkney

People should wait for NHS Scotland to contact them with details of their appointment, or prompt to book. Depending on their selected communication preferences, this will be by email, text, or by post in a white, NHS Scotland branded envelope, which replaces the blue envelopes used previously.

Public Health Minister, Jenni Minto said:

“We thank the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for their latest independent expert clinical advice which recommends we focus on protecting those most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.”We have accepted this advice and will continue to plan and implement the vaccination programme this winter.

“Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourselves, your loved ones, and the NHS from both COVID-19 and flu viruses, and I encourage all those eligible to take up their invitations when they are offered.”

Dr Claire Cameron, Consultant in Health Protection at PHS said:

“Getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself against flu and COVID-19 this winter. This year’s programme focuses on protecting those who are at highest risk. One of the ways we’re doing this is by offering vaccination to people who are most vulnerable to illness later in the programme to ensure they have maximum protection in the peak of winter.

“Scotland’s vaccination programme has always offered vaccinations in the safest and most effective ways possible. We know that administration of both vaccines together is a safe, efficient way to deliver increased protection when it’s most needed. Last year, over 89% of flu and COVID-19 vaccines were administered at the same time.

“We hope to see most vaccinations completed by early December. Those eligible for a flu or flu and COVID-19 vaccination this winter should look out for their invitation by email, text or by post in a white NHS Scotland envelope and take up the offer to protect themselves.”

The latest waster water monitoring was published on the SEPA website for Orkney recorded for 27th of July 2023 is as follows:

View the JCVI advice on a vaccination programme for this winter:

COVID-19: JCVI advises on eligible groups for 2023 autumn booster – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Flu: JCVI statement on influenza vaccines 2023-34

The winter programme will run until 31 March 2024.

image of the Covid virus
Image credit Bell

Fiona Grahame

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