People turned away from appointments in Scotland booster jab “shambles”

1 December 2021, 17:41

A member of the public walks past a shop window wearing a Covid mask in Edinburgh
A member of the public walks past a shop window wearing a Covid mask in Edinburgh. Picture: Alamy
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

Moves to rapidly speed up the booster vaccine programme in Scotland appear to have descended into chaos after individual health boards turned people away from appointments because they did not have a six-month gap between jabs.

The Scottish Government has said it accepted JCVI advice on allowing people to receive their booster jabs three months after the second vaccination - but health boards have yet to act upon it despite people being invited for appointments.

The decision to shorten the timescale between jabs came as the UK and Scottish governments attempted to act quickly in the face of the new Omicron variant. Nine cases have already been identified in Scotland, all linked to a single event which took place on November 20.

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith, said that “urgent talks with health boards and vaccination partners are underway and further information on the delivery of this advice will follow as soon as possible.”

Read more: Omicron cases 'mild' and vaccines still work: WHO official downplays variant fears

Read more: 'No need to change Christmas plans' despite Omicron fears, says Sajid Javid

However, members of the public hoping to get their boosters have been turned away from vaccination sites in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.

Dean Lockhart, a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said some of his constituents had also experienced problems.

He tweeted: “Appears that @scotgov have not updated their guidance, or NHS systems, to reflect JVCI advice. We must move quickly if the booster vaccination programme is to ramp up in the run up to Christmas.”

NHS Forth Valley has also said patients must wait 24 weeks while "work is underway to implement" the three month timeframe.

In a tweet, the health board told members of the public: "The JCVI has recently advised that the time between second and booster doses should be reduced to 12 weeks, work is underway to implement this.

"In the meantime, please continue to book boosters no earlier than 24 WEEKS since your 2nd dose."

Scottish Labour’s Health and Covid Recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie described it as a “shambles.”

"The need to accelerate our booster programme has never been greater, so we cannot have people being turned away,” she said.

"The change to JCVI guidance is clear, and all those eligible should be able to receive their booster as quickly as possible."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was "frustrating” for people to “hear that boosters can now be booked only to turn up and discover that the Health Secretary hasn't sorted the logistics out with the NHS and they have to be turned away.

"I have been calling for months for the Government to put rocket boosters under the booster programme. I wish the Health Secretary had started laying the groundwork then, rather than having to patch things up in a hurry."

The Scottish Government apologised to people “who had attended before the necessary protocols were in place” and said “urgent instructions” had been sent to all health boards to change their procedures. It said the vast majority of appointments booked would not have been affected.