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Public health messages to those at risk from Covid must improve, say MSPs

MSPs have voiced concerns about coronavirus messaging (Andrew Milligan/PA)
MSPs have voiced concerns about coronavirus messaging (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A Holyrood committee has said the Government must improve its public health communications for those at the highest risk of coronavirus.

The Covid-19 Recovery Committee said those previously on the Highest Risk List have reportedly received “mixed messages” on whether they continue to be at risk.

Some have not been prioritised for vaccines and new treatments, MSPs said.

MSPs on the committee have written to Public Health Minister Maree Todd with a number of recommendations.

Scottish Parliament
MSPs have written to minister Maree Todd (Fraser Bremner)

The letter said: “The committee heard concerns about the discontinuation of the Highest Risk List with those on the list reportedly receiving mixed messages about whether they were at risk or not.

“The committee heard that many had not been prioritised for vaccination, and were not eligible for new treatments, despite evidence showing they still had elevated risks.”

The committee’s inquiry also voiced concern about the low uptake of the vaccine in Polish and Gypsy/Traveller communities.

Committee convener Siobhian Brown said: “Many individuals at highest risk in Scotland felt let down by the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 public health communications, confused and unsure about where to find reliable information.

“It was deeply concerning to hear that many of those who were at the highest clinical risk, as well as unpaid carers, viewed public health messaging as mixed or unclear and felt that their concerns were not being addressed.

“The Scottish Government must continue to learn from the lived experience of individuals and communities during the earlier stages of the pandemic and adapt public health messaging during the recovery phase to make sure that no one is left behind.

“By putting the inquiry recommendations into practice, the Scottish Government can help people prepare for winter and better prepare communication strategies for any possible future pandemics.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are reviewing the points made in the Committee’s letter and will respond in due course.

“We have for some time now been asking people who were previously on the Highest Risk List to follow the same advice as the rest of the population unless advised otherwise by their own GP or specialist clinician.

“The end of Scotland’s Highest Risk List on May 31 came after publication of a clinical review of the scientific evidence that has emerged over the last two years in relation to each of the groups originally considered to be at highest risk from Covid-19.

“Before it ended, Scotland’s chief medical officer wrote to everyone on the Highest Risk List to set out the reasons for this and to reassure them that we are able to rapidly and more accurately identify those at highest risk for advice and communications should we need to in future.”