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HEALTH MATTERS: Dr Tim Allison, NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy, details how NHS Highland is improving organisation of the Covid booster programme

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Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland.
Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland.

I’ve said before that Covid has not gone away and infection numbers have clearly shown that.

We have still got virus circulating in the community with the possibility of both individual infections and outbreaks. It is still vital for us to take precautions against Covid and especially isolate and get tested if we have symptoms. The good news is that fewer people are becoming seriously ill with Covid and that is largely down to vaccination.

Local uptake of first and second dose Covid vaccinations has been great and has made a huge difference to people’s health and the health of the whole population. We can still increase the protection that we all get from vaccination.

For eligible people who have not had a Covid vaccination it is still important to get vaccinated and the same goes for people who have only had one dose of vaccine. If your immune system is not working well the first two doses may not give full immunity and you may be called for a third dose.

For people whose immune systems are working well, two doses of vaccine give good protection from getting ill with Covid, although vaccinated people can still become infected with the virus and pass it on. Protection from the vaccine reduces over time, but there is no sudden drop off in immunity. Booster vaccinations increase immunity, and the programme of vaccination is now well under way alongside influenza vaccination.

Boosters will be available for everyone aged over 50 as well as people who are at increased risk of harm from Covid. NHS Highland started its Covid boosters with people who are most vulnerable.

A graphic NHS Highland has been using to help explain to people when they can expect their Covid booster.
A graphic NHS Highland has been using to help explain to people when they can expect their Covid booster.

Vaccinations are being delivered either in GP surgeries or through separate clinics. Booster clinics will be available across the area. If you are eligible, you will receive an invitation, and I encourage you to take up the offer. Information about boosters and clinics is available on the NHS Highland website.

We have not got everything right with the booster programme and with communication about it. I would like to apologise to people who have been unable to get information or have been frustrated when wanting to get vaccinated.

We are improving the way that the booster programme is being organised and we hope that people will find the process much better. We’re looking for good coverage of boosters across the population before Christmas and we’re confident that the effects of influenza and Covid vaccines will make a real difference.

• Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.

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