Concerns about the Indian variant of Covid-19 have forced changes to Shetland’s vaccination programme.
NHS Shetland said it was now looking to vaccinate people with their second dose around eight weeks after their first, rather than 12.
Director of public health Susan Laidlaw said the change had been brought about due to concerns about the so-called Indian variant, which is causing particular problems in parts of the UK including Glasgow.
Dr Laidlaw said there was “some evidence” the first vaccine dose was not as effective against the Indian variant, compared with other forms.
Health boards are therefore being asked to provide second doses more quickly to offer full protection, particularly to those in the vulnerable groups.
Vaccine supply will be prioritised to areas at greatest risk of the new variant, as well as those where the rollout has been slower.
As Shetland has no reported cases of the Indian variant and has made good progress on the vaccination programme, Dr Laidlaw said there may be times when supplies slowed locally.
It may mean not all doses can be provided within eight weeks.
“It’s all a balance around the risk and what’s happening across the whole country, not just here,” she said.
Dr Laidlaw said more than half Shetland’s adult population has already received their second dose, with more clinics scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
“That means that most of the people in the risk groups and people over 50 will have received their second dose by the end of this week,” she said.
“More clinics are being put in place to bring in anyone in these priority groups, who has not yet had their second dose, sooner than originally planned and nearer to eight weeks.
“Going forward, appointments for second vaccinations will be scheduled at about eight to nine weeks for the other age groups, depending on vaccine supply.”
Anyone who has not yet had their first dose, particularly those in the higher risk groups, are being asked to make themselves known.
Dr Laidlaw said Shetland has done well with its vaccination rollout: more than 90 per cent of the adult population has had a first dose.
“Everyone who is on the lists for vaccination has been contacted and everyone who is contactable by by phone has been offered the vaccine,” she said.
“There are still a few hundred people who have not been spoken to but they have been sent letters.”
Appointments are also being given to people who did not want the vaccine when first asked but who have changed their mind, students and others returning home from the mainland and people who have recently moved to Shetland.
Dr Laidlaw stressed it was all dependent on vaccine supply.
“This has improved but the changes to the guidance will put additional pressure on supplies,” she said.