People whose appointments for a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine were from Tuesday January 5 onwards are having their appointments delayed.

The second vaccination will now take place 12 weeks after the first dose.

This will remain the policy for future vaccinations.  It is intended to massively boost the numbers of people given partial immunity by the first dose in the face of rapidly rising numbers of Covid-19 victims.

Meanwhile, the Western Isles reported no new cases of Covid-19 yesterday (Friday January 1) and eliminated several 'false positives' from mainland testing.  The mainland laboratory system is designed to provide rapid results for a large number of screening tests.  Where a result is a ‘weak positive’ in someone without risk factors for exposure to Covid-19, a confirmatory test is recommended.  The confirmatory test that is used by NHS Western Isles in the local laboratory is called a Cepheid test which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in testing for Covid-19 and is used as the system to ‘retest’ as necessary. 

In Shetland, the outbreak there saw a further extension with another 14 cases of Covid-19 recorded over 24 hours up to yesterday evening which brings the current total number of cases in the current outbreak to 72.

All NHS Boards have been told to take the following actions to ensure delivery is in line with the regulatory advice from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the updated clinical guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

  • For recipients who have received their first vaccination and are due to receive their second dose between now and Monday 4 January 2021, no further action is required, and these appointments should continue as planned.
  • For those who have received their first vaccination and are scheduled to receive their second dose after Monday 4 January 2021, the second dose appointment should be rescheduled in the twelfth week post the first dose.
  • For those scheduled to receive their first vaccination from 31 December 2020, an appointment to receive the second dose should be scheduled in the twelfth week post the first dose.
  • Those services that will be operational from Monday 4 January 2021 onwards should to ensure that all second dose appointments are booked in the twelfth week post the first dose.

The NHS says they " recognise that the requirement to reschedule second appointments is operationally difficult in the short term and may be unpopular with patients booked in for a second dose in the immediate future.  However, for every 1000 people boosted with a second dose of covid-19 vaccine in January (who will as a result gain marginally on protection), 1000 new people would be delayed in receiving what amounts to very substantial initial protection which is,in most cases, is likely to raise them from 0% protected to at least 70% protected in typically 14-21 days. This approach will therefore allow as many first doses as possible to be provided as quickly as possible, providing substantive levels of individual protection while reaching more of those most at risk."

NHS Shetland’s consultant in public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said hopefully the community had kept itself safe and stayed at home for New Year which should have an impact on the infection rate there. However, she said what remains concerning is that many of the positive cases are not presenting with symptoms, which means they have unknowingly moved around the community while infectious.

“We are hearing people say that they have had a new cough but didn’t get a test because they didn’t think it was a ‘Covid’ cough,” Dr Laidlaw said.  “Any new continuous cough should be a prompt to get a test, along with a high temperature or loss/change in taste or smell.”

She said that anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms but none of the Covid symptoms should stay at home. “And, if you go on to develop one of the main Covid symptoms then book a test.

“We are still fighting back a wave of infections. The simplest guidance at the moment is to stay at home with your own household as far as possible and avoid meeting others as much as you can."

The majority of the infections occurred before and during the run-up to Christmas weekend when Shetland was still in Level One and rules were relaxed to allow for limited socialising.