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More people asking for their first jag as Covid death toll in UK climbs past 150,000

© PAInformation signs above the M8 motorway in Glasgow read 'Covid 19 Vaccine Get the Booster', as the coronavirus booster programme continues across the UK
Information signs above the M8 motorway in Glasgow read 'Covid 19 Vaccine Get the Booster', as the coronavirus booster programme continues across the UK

A growing number of unvaccinated people are getting their first dose over Omicron fears, according to a leading virologist.

Dr Christine Tait-Burkard of Edinburgh University said vaccine scepticism was limited to an increasingly small minority as the protection offered by the vaccine became clearer in hospital admission figures.

Figures released yesterday revealed more than 150,000 people in the UK have now died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid.

Tait-Burkard said it was important to attempt to address the concerns of anti-vaxxers but added: “It’s a difficult one because rational arguments with very strong anti-vaxxers do not necessarily work.

“The anti-vax movement is absolutely a minority and we’ve actually had the highest increase in people getting their first dose in months. I think it’s as a consequence of the massive rise in cases. It’s hit a bit closer to home than ever before for many people who are hesitant.”

© Jane Barlow / PA
People queue outside a vaccination clinic at the Glasgow Central Mosque (Jane Barlow / PA Wire)

Around 70,000 people took the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the last eight weeks, increasing the percentage from 78% to 80% of the population.

Scotland is the most vaccinated part of the UK with 74% of the population having had two doses and 56% a booster.

In England, health and care workers who have face-to-face contact with patients are required by law to be vaccinated by April 1 but there are no plans for Scotland to introduce the policy.

Tait-Burkard said: “Forcing someone to have medical intervention is wrong. Actually, it’s against the law in the UK.

“Those who are not vaccinated will just have to deal with the consequences of Omicron and, hopefully, it is relatively milder and less severe and fewer people will end up in hospital.”

© PA
A demonstration in Glasgow city centre (Pic: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Her comments came as police were called in when around 1,000 anti-lockdown demonstrators gathered in Glasgow yesterday and a new group of conspiracy-theorists threatened “direct action” in Scotland.

Alpha Men Assemble is running combat training sessions in England and an online forum suggests it is planning another in Motherwell later this month.

Those attending are told to wear black clothes and boots for the sessions designed to help them “defend our women and children”.

Alpha Men Assemble undergoing combat and martial arts training in pictures posted online

On Telegram, an encrypted messaging service where the group has 2,800 followers, an administrator posted on Friday: “Scottish brothers and sisters, once we get this next meet out of the way all efforts are then going to go on getting as many as we can up to you and we have already had a good response.”

Last night, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hit out at suggestions Boris Johnson is considering ditching Covid testing, which has cost taxpayers over £6 billion.

She said: “If UK government is really considering this (@scotgov certainly not signed up to it) it is utterly wrongheaded. Hard to imagine much that would be less helpful to trying to ‘live with’ Covid.”

Whitehall is understood to be of the view that free test kits would only be available in care homes, hospitals and schools, and for people with symptoms.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has deferred fertility treatment for all patients who are not fully vaccinated – unless they are waiting for a booster.

The decision was based on uncertainty about how pregnant women were affected by the Omicron variant. Professor Linda Bauld, a public health expert at Edinburgh University, said: “We do know very clearly in relation to pregnancy what the outcomes are and it can be very serious.”

Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf yesterday renewed his plea to people to get jagged, saying: “To protect ourselves and the NHS it is vital people complete the vaccination course.”