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DR TIM ALLISON: Vaccinations for flu and Covid carried out this autumn and winter will be the best way to keep up protection

By Dr Tim Allison

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Dr Moira McKenna vaccinates a patient from Dingwall Medical Group as part of their most recent clinic.
Dr Moira McKenna vaccinates a patient from Dingwall Medical Group as part of their most recent clinic.

There are many signs around us that show that the summer has been ending, and that autumn and winter are well on the way.

Children have been back at school for a month, days are becoming shorter, and Strictly Come Dancing is back on our television screens.

For many years autumn has also signalled the start of the annual vaccination programme against influenza. Since the end of 2020 we have had Covid vaccines too and these are also part of the vaccination programme for this autumn, which began at the start of September.

Vaccines for Covid continue to be developed. Production of the first Covid vaccines was a fantastic scientific achievement and the vaccines have played a huge part in reducing the impact of the Covid pandemic.

Up until recently all the vaccines were designed to work against the original strain of the Covid virus. They have also been effective against variants of the virus such as the Omicron strain which is most common now.

However, the new vaccines including the main vaccine being used for the autumn programme, are designed against both the original virus strain and against the Omicron variant.

Everyone aged over 50 will be offered both influenza and Covid vaccines given at the same time. People aged under 50 who are at higher risk, such as those whose immune system is affected by illness or medication, and health and social care staff, will also be offered both vaccines.

Some groups such as children will just be offered the influenza vaccine. Vaccination will be undertaken largely through health board clinics and these are spread throughout the NHS Highland area.

Vaccinations will be given in a priority order in most areas, protecting first those at most risk from Covid.

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

People living in care homes, the housebound and some health and social care staff will be invited for vaccination first, followed by people aged over 65.

In some more remote and rural areas though, where it will be less easy to run several vaccination clinics, all eligible people may be invited at the same time.

Some people will already have received their invitation for vaccination and will have booked appointments. I would encourage everyone to take up the offer of vaccination when it arrives and if the appointment offered is unsuitable then please cancel that and book an alternative by calling 0800 320 339.

This is the best way to keep up protection against Covid. It is also crucial to protect ourselves and others from influenza since immunity to influenza will be at a low level.

In the NHS we are working hard to make the vaccination process as smooth and straightforward as possible. With such a big programme there will be some difficulties along the way, but we can all work together to keep Highland vaccination rates high and protect ourselves, our families, friends and communities.

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

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