NHS Grampian is to begin offering Covid-19 vaccinations to those aged 18-39 in Moray as the health board combats an “uncontrolled” outbreak of the virus.
Under-40s who have not already received an appointment will be contacted from Saturday, initially by phone and by letter from the middle of next week.
Moray has been struggling with sustained community transmission of coronavirus, with current restrictions failing to contain the spread.
The health board has launched an incident management team (IMT) to try to bring the virus back under control, and is urging people to get tested even if they do not have symptoms.
Door-to-door testing is being “heavily considered” for Elgin, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Moray’s case rate is significantly higher than the rest of the country.
The latest statistics show Moray had 95 cases per 100,000 people over the seven days to May 4, significantly higher than the rate in the rest of the country.
Nearby Aberdeenshire and Highland had just 9.2 and 8.1 cases per 100,000 respectively.
Scotland has recorded one coronavirus death and 236 new cases in the past 24 hours.
It brings the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,661.
Katrina Morrison, clinical lead nurse for the Covid-19 vaccination programme in NHS Grampian, said: “Additional Covid-19 Pfizer vaccination stock and the concerning, uncontrolled, sustained community transmission of Covid-19 in Moray has made this decision straightforward. It needs to happen quickly and our staff have been mobilised to speed up the process.
“Working together to reduce the spread in Moray will reduce the risk of further spread to Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen. The slightly accelerated delivery in Moray will not delay the programme or negatively impact on the work planned throughout Grampian.
“We urge the residents in Moray to make every effort to attend their allocated appointment time to help us protect them and the community.
“If individuals cannot attend their allocated appointment, they are advised to get in touch using the contact details they will be provided – this is really important as it reduces the risk of any vaccine wastage.”
A mobile testing unit has arrived in Elgin and is initially targeting pupils and teachers at Elgin Academy during school hours.
It will be used for members of the wider public during the weekend.
Jamie Hogg, NHS Grampian’s divisional clinical director at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, said: “We have seen 51 cases of Covid-19 within the school’s population – but there is no evidence of ongoing transmission in the school and we are not treating it as a single outbreak.
“It is therefore likely these individuals have picked up the virus in the community, outwith the school.
“In testing all pupils and teachers it gives us a fuller picture of who is infected in the community – we know Covid-19 is now becoming widespread across Moray.
“It is vital we get ahead of the virus, and widespread testing is our best chance to do that.
“Test positivity in Moray is at 3.2% – across Scotland that figure is close to just 1% – and the R-rate in Moray is at 1.8, so every person in Moray that becomes infected is, on average, passing it on to two other people.”
The health board said the Moray outbreak is concentrated in Elgin but cases are also rising in Lossiemouth, Buckie and Keith.
East Ayrshire has the second highest number of cases in Scotland, with 42.6 per 100,000.
Across Scotland the daily test positivity rate was 1.2%, up from 0.9% the previous day, according to figures released by the Scottish Government on Friday.
There were 68 people in hospital on Thursday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up from 58 the day before.
Eight people were in intensive care, down from 11 the previous day.
So far 2,876,633 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 1,424,208 have had their second.