Following final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland (PHS) are finalising plans for the roll out of Scotland’s winter vaccination programme, delivered at a local level by Health Boards across the country.
This year’s programme has an increased focus on protecting those at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and COVID-19. There will also be changes to call up dates to ensure maximum protection to these groups over the winter months.
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.
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 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 (with the exception of those who turned 75 after the end of the spring programme on 30 June, who won’t have been eligible for a spring booster).
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."
View the JCVI advice on a vaccination programme for this winter:
The winter programme will run until 31 March 2024.