COVID: First cases of rapidly mutating variant identified here

England’s autumn flu and coronavirus vaccine programme was pulled forward by a month due to concern around the new variant known as BA.2.86, or Pirola

By Lucy Ashton

On August 29, the first case of BA.2.86 was identified through PCR testing in Scotland on a sample collected on August 16, Public Health Scotland said.

Scottish wastewater surveillance data shows the presence of the Covid mutation in a different NHS Health Board – meaning it has been found in at least two different areas of the country.

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“Scotland’s winter vaccination programme begins ahead of England on Monday,” a spokesperson for Public Health Scotland (PHS) said.

“Public Health Scotland continues to monitor Covid-19 variants and will consider any changes to the winter vaccination programme as a result.”

The UK Health Security Agency and representatives from the four nations held a meeting to risk assess the newly identified BA.2.86 lineage.

It was designated a variant due to a “high number of mutations and the unknown effects this may have on transmissibility and severity”, Public Health Scotland said.

But as part of this year’s programme, healthy under-65s will no longer routinely be offered a booster jag – whereas last year, all people over 50 were given the option.



The decision follows advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

PHS’s most recent data shows that Omicron is the most dominant variant, accounting for more than half of sequences.

But there have been increases in XBB.1.16, also known as Arcturus, and EG.5.1, dubbed Eris.

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