THE number of Covid vaccine first doses being administered in Scotland has nearly doubled after the rollout was extended to younger teens.
The latest figures show that 23,635 people in Scotland received their first vaccination in the past week, up from around 12,700 and 14,500 during the previous two weeks.
However, the increase in uptake has been driven by newly-eligible 16 and 17-year-olds coming forward since drop-in clinics opened to them for the first time last weekend, with 1,152 children aged 12 to 15 with severe health conditions also being vaccinated since recommendations were issued by the JCVI on July 19.
In contrast, uptake among 18 to 49-year-olds has continued to slow despite advertising campaigns and appeals from public health officials.
Plans are underway to set up drop-in vaccine clinics on major university campuses ahead of students returning in September, with consideration also being given to the use of domestic ‘vaccine passports’ for entry into some crowded venues such as nightclubs in a bid to encourage more young people to get the jag.
To date, 414,612 people aged 18 to 49 in Scotland remain unvaccinated, equivalent to one in five people in this age group, with more than a quarter of those aged 18 to 29 yet to come forward.
Among 18 to 29-year-olds, 5,800 first doses were administered in the past week – down from around 6,100 and 7,250 during the previous two weeks.
In the 30 to 39 age group weekly uptake has dwindled from around 3,300 to 3,100 over the past two weeks, and from 1,400 to 1250 in the 40 to 49 age group.
It comes as the latest data shows that coronavirus cases are rising in Scotland.
In the week ending August 13, 9,074 new cases were reported through laboratory testing, up by 17 per cent week-on-week.
Confirmed cases are also rising in the rest of the UK.
Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said he expects to see a fourth wave in the wake of eased restrictions and with the return of schools and people moving indoors after the summer.
He said: “I would expect to see a rise in cases, a ‘fourth’ wave. I do not know the size of any new increase nor do I put much faith in those that claim with certainty to ‘know’.”
But Prof Naismith stressed that “any significant rise in cases” would still put pressure on the NHS.
He added: “The more vaccinated people, the smaller any fourth wave.”
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said while vaccines are reducing the number of hospital admissions and deaths, high case numbers “still place an unnecessary burden on the NHS”.
It is currently estimated that around 4% of symptomatic Covid cases will result in a hospital admission around one to two weeks later, although this is expected to shrink as vaccine coverage increases.
Dr Clarke said: “We are seeing an early sense of what living with Covid-19 looks like. As restrictions are lifted and the economy rebounds, we are ‘running hot’ when it comes to managing Covid spread.
“Wider rollout of the vaccine may reduce infections, but high case numbers still place an unnecessary burden on the NHS.”
NHS Lothian has become the second health board to halt non-urgent elective operations amid staff shortages and “unprecedented demand”, especially from patients presenting with complex illnesses at A&E. Non-urgent outpatient appointments have also been postponed.
The move came two days after NHS Borders cancelled all scheduled routine operations until the end of next week due to pressure on services.
NHS Lothian said increased levels of staff sickness combined with holidays and self isolation had led to a “significant reduction” in the number of available nurses and midwives.
Professor Alex McMahon, nurse director for NHS Lothian, said: “We also continue to be restricted in the number of people we can see each day because of the enhanced infection control measures in place.”