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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S6W-08278
Asked by: Emma Harper, South Scotland, Scottish National Party
Date lodged: 26 April 2022

Question

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on what consideration it has given to whether people need to continue to be on Scotland’s Highest Risk List, formerly the Shielding List, as set out in the updated Strategic Framework of February 2022.

Current status: Answered by Humza Yousaf on 27 April 2022


Answer

We have considered carefully whether people need to continue to be on the Highest Risk List. A significant body of evidence has been reviewed by clinical advisers related to the impact of vaccination for the approximately 176,000 people who have, for the most part, been on Scotland’s Highest Risk List since the start of the pandemic when we initially asked people to shield.

Based on the strong evidence that the risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid has significantly reduced for the majority of people on the Highest Risk List as a result of vaccination, alongside effective new treatments now being made available to people who will benefit most, we have decided to stand down the Highest Risk List from 31 May 2022. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) will write to everyone on the Highest Risk List to advise them of this, along with a summary of the evidence that informed this decision and information about further, ongoing guidance and support.

The CMO wrote to everyone on the Highest Risk List on 4 March and indicated that we were undertaking a review of the Highest Risk List in light of the evidence that has emerged over the past two years. This intention was also set out in the update to the Strategic Framework in February.

Since July 2021, the CMO has advised people on the Highest Risk List to follow the same guidance and take the same precautionary measures as the rest of the population, unless advised otherwise by their GP or clinician who will understand their health condition and individual circumstances best.

The CMO also said in his letter that we will share the evidence that we have used to make those decisions and we are publishing a summary of the clinical evidence today. You can read the full publication at the following link https://www.gov.scot/isbn/9781802017311 which will go live at 10:00. We are aware that a core of immuno-suppressed people are unable to mount a full immune response due to their condition and/or treatment. We will publish separate advice for this group. We are working with Public Health Scotland and have put an identification process in place to be able to rapidly generate an accurate and current list of individuals for vaccine prioritisation and covid treatments, and to provide additional advice in the event of any escalated threat level to those who may need it.

We are also aware from our own and Public Health Scotland research with people on the Highest Risk List of ongoing wider negative impacts, particularly in terms of mental health, and issues of isolation, for some people on the Highest Risk List. We know that some people will continue to be more cautious or anxious about what this change means for them, or need more time to reconnect with people, or to restart the things they were doing before the pandemic. To help support these people, we have funded the British Red Cross to extend their Connecting with You Service to support people to rebuild their confidence and lives. We are also engaging with partners across all sectors to find ways to support people who may need more help to adapt, and will continue to provide guidance on protecting ourselves and others, including promoting the Distance Aware Scheme.

This is a positive step as there is no longer a need for the vast majority of people who have been on the Highest Risk List to consider themselves at any significantly higher risk. Our hope is that this will enable them to adapt to living with COVID and enjoy a better quality of life.