• Alex Mooney

St Andrews Student Vaccination Rate High as Plans for a Scottish Vaccine Passport Push Forward

At the University of St Andrews, 97% of students arrived for the Martinmas semester with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, while 73% have received both doses of a COVID vaccine. In Scotland, Public Health Scotland data estimates that 74% of 18-29 year-olds have received one dose of the vaccine, with 50% having received two jabs.

Across the whole of the UK, more than 80% of those aged 16 and up have received two doses of the COVID vaccine.

Speaking on the high vaccination rate amongst students, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Mapstone said, “I cannot praise our student and staff communities highly enough for the way the University responded to the pandemic so far, and kept levels of transmission so low.

“In many cases, that has meant considerable personal sacrifices, and significant disruption to the student experience.

“As we begin our new academic year, although most legal restrictions have been lifted and people are entitled to exercise important freedoms again, our students and staff have told us that they wish this semester to be one of transition in which our return to normality is considered and gradual.

“Levels of COVID transmission in the general population in Scotland and the rest of the UK are exceptionally high at present, which is why it has been so important to encourage and support our students to get vaccinated.

“The fact that 97% have had one dose and intend to be fully vaccinated, a percentage which is substantially ahead of that in the general population, says a great deal about the maturity and attitude of the St Andrews student community.

“Learning to live with the virus in our midst will take time, which is why a semester of transition is the right thing to do, a semester in which we are able to re-discover all the things which make St Andrews special, but recognise that, at a very fundamental level, each of us has a continuing responsibility for the health, safety, and wellbeing of all in our community.”

The University has also updated its Covid Code, most notably relaxing social distancing measures in line with the Scottish government’s new policies. However, students are still reminded to be considerate of those who wish to practice physical distancing.

The new Covid Code still requires mask wearing, and encourages hand washing and regular testing for all students and staff. Additionally, the university is urging all students to get their second vaccine if they have not done so already, or to get vaccinated if they haven’t begun the process.

The Scottish Government is also continuing to push forward with its plan for vaccine passports, despite England scrapping them altogether.

In an appearance on the Andrew Marr Show, English Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid spoke on the reversal of the proposed vaccine passport requirement.

He said, “I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it.

“We’ve looked at it properly and, whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.”

In Scotland, vaccine passports are planned to launch on 1 October, with a QR code available via a mobile app being scanned at high-capacity venues to prove vaccination status and grant entry. There are a few exemptions, including children and people with medical conditions.

The new QR codes will be used at all nightclubs or adult entertainment venues, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people present, outdoor unseated events with more than 4,000 people present, and any event with more than 10,000 people present.

This last restriction is likely to apply most frequently to sporting matches and concerts, with concerns being raised about the practicalities of checking tens of thousands of QR codes at major events. It has been suggested that spot checks could be introduced as a potential solution to this problem.

When asked about spot checks on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland, Health Secretary Humza Yousef said, “That is absolutely an option that we are happy to consider.”

He also stated, “What is proportionate on entry to a nightclub of 200 people may not be proportionate, or possible, in an event crowd of 60,000.

"We acknowledged that for a different setting you are going to have to have, probably, different rules depending on that setting and you wouldn't want any adverse impacts, for example lots of people queuing and then potentially any crowd trouble that would follow on from there."

As Scotland pushes forward with its plans for a vaccination passport, it is likely that it will become the only UK country to impose such a restriction as England has renounced their earlier plans, and Wales and Northern Ireland have made no indication that they are considering imposing such a scheme.

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