Scotland’s winter vaccination programme is now under way with plans to bring appointments forward for those most at risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and COVID.
It comes as the UK Health Security Agency said plans were under way to restart COVID surveillance across the UK by way of monitoring infection rates, hospitalisations and new variants.
BA.2.86, classed as a “variant of interest”, was detected in Scotland on August 16. Less than a fortnight later on 29 August, it was found in wastewater in another NHS board area.
What is the ‘Pi COVID variant – and should we be worried?
Although BA.2.86 is not yet considered a variant of concern, it has a “high number of mutations”. NHS officials said it is the most concerning new strain since Omicron first emerged.
The strain has already been found in several countries, including Denmark, Israel and the US.
Invitations to book or attend an appointment for the jabs have already been sent to those eligible. They include care home residents, those aged over 75, and those with weakened immune systems who are set to be vaccinated from mid-October.
PHS reported 1,342 COVID cases in Scotland in the week ending 27 August.
Dr Nick Phin, director of public health science at PHS, said: “We are continuing to monitor the emergence and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Scotland through our surveillance programme.
“While we are not concerned about the current levels of COVID-19, the identification of BA.2.86 in Scotland means that we are now working with health boards to ensure those most vulnerable to illness are protected this winter.
“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness and those eligible are encouraged to book or attend their appointment when invited to do so.
“Coming forward when called will also help to alleviate pressures on local health boards who are working to deliver the winter vaccination programme at pace.”