NHS Fife is to pick up the pace of its COVID-19 vaccination programme in the run-up to Christmas in a bid to curb case numbers.

The health board and its partners will step up their drive to ensure all those eligible for a booster dose will get one in response to request from the Scottish Government to ‘turbo boost’ the number of jabs administered over the next three weeks. 

The hope is to have all eligible cohorts fully vaccinated with a flu and COVID booster by the end of December, while new figures suggest Fife is on course to eliminate its backlog – a national term for those who fall outwith timing for booster dose – by December 20.

Dr Joy Tomlinson, NHS Fife director of public health, said: “It is evident from figures emerging that the vaccination programme is having a significant positive impact on cases, hospitalisations, and deaths from COVID-19.

“Despite this success, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. 

“At present there are many factors that are making the impact of this winter uncertain, including increased indoor mixing as weather becomes colder and the positive benefits we anticipate from the booster campaign.

“It is therefore essential to try and limit the expected increase in cases as much as possible through increased efforts to engage and communicate clearly with people about symptoms, measures to reduce spread (face coverings, ventilation, physical distancing and vaccination) and actions that individuals can take to protect themselves and the most vulnerable in society.”

While opening times at community clinics will be extended at evenings and weekends, it is understood NHS Fife has also requested a formal extension to the Military Aid to Civilian Authority (MACA) scheme which has seen eight vaccinators and two registrants from the armed forces complement the 218-strong team of healthcare support worker vaccinators.

That MoD resource is likely to be extended until the end of December.  

Figures presented to NHS Fife’s board on Tuesday said more than 651,000 vaccines have been administered to date, with 88 per cent of the region’s population aged 75-79 having received their booster.

Nine in 10 people aged 12 and over have received a first dose, and of those aged 18 and over 94 per cent have received two doses.

In terms of case numbers, there had been 45,760 positive COVID-19 cases in Fife as at November 19, with 1,720 new confirmed cases in the seven days up to that date.

A total of 621 COVID-19 confirmed and suspected deaths have also been registered throughout the pandemic thus far, almost two thirds of which were related to deaths in hospitals and 28 per cent of which related to care homes.

Around 72 per cent of coronavirus deaths in Fife happened to people aged 75 and over – in line with the 71 per cent reported nationally.