NEARLY two thirds of the Covid deaths among fully vaccinated Scots occurred in the six weeks after Scotland lifted all remaining restrictions in August, figures have revealed.

Reports by Public Health Scotland (PHS) show that, since the immunisation programme began in December, there have been a total of 616 Covid deaths in people who tested positive for the virus at least 14 days on from their second vaccine dose.

However, 380 of these - 62 per cent - were registered in the six weeks between August 14, five days after the country moved to Beyond Zero, and September 24.

The period coincided with record-breaking numbers of confirmed infections, but also predates any effect from the booster vaccination scheme which did not get underway until September 20.

HeraldScotland:

HeraldScotland: Covid deaths, by vaccine status, from week beginning August 14 to week ending September 24 (Source: Public Health Scotland)Covid deaths, by vaccine status, from week beginning August 14 to week ending September 24 (Source: Public Health Scotland)

Elderly care home residents are among those being prioritised amid concerns the vaccine protection against serious illness may wane from around six months.

The vast majority of over 70s in Scotland were fully vaccinated by the end of May - but the oldest, and those in care homes, mostly received second doses by February or March.

READ MORE: Retired medics deterred from NHS return during Covid due to 'complex' process and 'inappropriate' job offers

PHS notes that the risk of death from Covid-19 is "strongly linked to age".

It also stresses that the 616 who have died from the disease after being fully vaccinated represent just 0.016% of the 3.8 million people to date given both doses.

The report states: "These individuals had several co-morbidities which contributed to their deaths.

"Of the [616] confirmed Covid-19 related deaths, in individuals that have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, 80.4% were in the 70 and over age group."

HeraldScotland: Since the beginning of the pandemic in Scotland there have been 8,721 deaths in total among people with confirmed Covid. Vaccinations have reduced the death toll from the disease during the most recent waves, despite record-breaking infection levelsSince the beginning of the pandemic in Scotland there have been 8,721 deaths in total among people with confirmed Covid. Vaccinations have reduced the death toll from the disease during the most recent waves, despite record-breaking infection levels

The spread of the virus is now in decline in Scotland, but the wave of infections as schools returned at the end of summer, nightclubs reopened, and physical distancing rules were scrapped indoors saw cases surge five-fold between August 9 and September 7.

Deaths in Scotland can be registered up to eight days after someone passes, but are on average registered within three days.

READ MORE: The 'surprising' fall in Scotland's Covid cases - but will it last?

The time between symptom onset and Covid death is typically seven to eight days, with the virus tending to incubate for around three to five days before signs of illness emerge.

The PHS data shows that 317 Covid deaths in the fully vaccinated - 51% of the total - were registered in the space of just four weeks, from August 28, the vast majority of which would relate to infections caught after Beyond Zero.

HeraldScotland: Nearly 85 per cent of the population aged 16-plus in Scotland is now fully vaccinatedNearly 85 per cent of the population aged 16-plus in Scotland is now fully vaccinated

Professor Linda Bauld, chair of public health at Edinburgh University, said waning vaccine immunity "may be a feature" in the deaths.

She said: "It is probable that there is some waning in the population among older age groups. But I think the biggest factor here is that you've just got a lot of double-vaccinated people who are vulnerable.

"When you have nearly 100% of people fully vaccinated in these older age groups, the serious cases you're going to see are going to be in these older age groups and some will die from it.

"In the same way that when you have a lot of flu circulating you unfortunately do see deaths in people who've had a flu vaccine - that occurs every winter.

"We shouldn't be complacent at all about this mortality because we want to get these infection levels down, but we do seem to be on a downward trajectory."

Prof Bauld also stressed that the PHS report makes clear that Covid death rates remain highest for unvaccinated individuals.

According to the PHS data, over the same six week period beginning August 14, there were a total of 96 Covid deaths in unvaccinated people.

However, this reflects the fact that most of the adult population were either partially or fully vaccinated by this stage, and those who were not were more likely to be younger and therefore at lower risk from the infection.

READ MORE: How do virus, vaccine and hospital trends compare across the UK?

Once the statistics are adjusted for age, they show that the death rate from Covid was 9.06 per 100,000 in the unvaccinated population by the week beginning September 18, compared to 2.33 per 100,000 for the fully vaccinated population.

It comes after Professor Neil Ferguson, the head of the influential disease modelling group at Imperial College London, told MPs on Tuesday that the UK should be "a little more aggressive in rolling out booster doses".

HeraldScotland: Prof Neil Ferguson, whose modelling of Covid deaths helped to trigger the UK's move into the first lockdown in March 2020Prof Neil Ferguson, whose modelling of Covid deaths helped to trigger the UK's move into the first lockdown in March 2020

Although everyone over 50 and younger adults with underlying health conditions are being offered boosters, the timetable to administer them no earlier than six months after a second dose means that many who are eligible will not be given appointments until December or January.

Prof Ferguson said: “I’d like to see us be a little more aggressive in rolling out booster doses, because the sooner we can, the sooner we’ll reap the benefits of that and I think the data supports that not just after six months, probably after four months after second doses, you still get a very big effect of booster doses.”

Data this week from Israel has found that the rate of hospitalisation for Covid was just 2.6 per 100,000 among over-60s who had had a third booster shot, compared to 28.5 per 100,000 for individuals the same age group who have had just two Pfizer doses.

HeraldScotland: Israel is reporting around 378 Covid cases per million people per day, compared to 490 per million per day in the UKIsrael is reporting around 378 Covid cases per million people per day, compared to 490 per million per day in the UK

Boosters have now become a mandatory requirement under the country's Green Pass vaccine passport system, although around 900,000 eligible Israelis are yet to come forward for vaccination at all.

Professor Eyal Leshem, an infectious diseases specialist at Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Aviv, told The Times of Israel: “What we see is that among the triple-vaccinated, rates of severe disease and death are very low, and it is this that’s allowing the country to function without being in lockdown.”