First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that children in Scotland aged between 12 and 15 will be offered the coronavirus vaccine, following unanimous advice from the UK’s four chief medical officers.
In an address to parliament on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon also confirmed over-50s would begin receiving booster shots of the Covid vaccine from next week.
Regarding the moves to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds, Ms Sturgeon said information would be made available for parents and carers online.
Drop-in clinics will be open to that age group from Monday September 20, while letters will be sent from September 27 and vaccinations in schools will go ahead afterwards.
Ms Sturgeon said there was “some additional risk” in the coming weeks as universities around the country reopen, and the NHS is already experiencing “considerable pressure”.
Can I thank CMOs for recommendation to vaccinate 12-15yr olds with a first dose of Pfizer. ScotGovt will accept that recommendation.
From w/c 20th Sept our drop-in centres will be open to 12-15yr olds- who can be accompanied by a parent.
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) September 14, 2021
She also confirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to introducing Covid status certification, after the UK government backtracked on their own vaccine passport plans.
Changes (and no changes) in schools
The first minister added that students in schools will need to continue wearing masks until the October break, following the six-week review.
Staff must also continue to keep a one-metre distance from children and each other.
The recommendation to take a lateral flow test before returning to school will be “strengthened”, with updated guidance to be included in letters sent to parents and carers.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “In light of the latest data and evidence, we have decided to extend the period for these mitigations to remain in place.
“This decision has been informed by expert medical advice and will be kept under close review to ensure it remains appropriate.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to our young people, for their continued compliance with the public health measures that keep us all safe. I promise that if we can remove the restrictions sooner, we will.”
What have the experts said?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine for over-50s around the UK, saying it would be necessary to top up the protection that has likely waned in the past few months.
The view on shots for 12 to 15-year-olds is more complicated though, as the JCVI said earlier this month it would not be recommending such a programme.
The committee, made up of the UK government’s top vaccine advisers, said the benefit of vaccination for that population was only marginal.
However, yesterday the four chief medical officers (CMOs) around the UK advised that children between those ages should receive a first dose of the vaccine so the impact on schools would be minimised.
In a press conference, the UK government’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that recommendation was not inconsistent with the JCVI’s conclusion, as the CMOs had considered factors outside the committee’s remit such as education.
What is the current state of the pandemic in Scotland?
There has been a steady rise in the number of people with Covid being treated in hospital since this time last month, as restrictions have been eased across Scotland.
On Sunday, the number of patients with the virus in Scottish hospitals passed 1,000 for the first time since February 24, with the number in the ICU creeping closer to 100 each day.
In the past 24 hours, 21 more people have died with coronavirus in the country, the third-highest daily total since March.
2,993,116 people in Scotland have been tested for #coronavirus
The total confirmed as positive has risen by 3,375 to 512,312
Sadly 21 more people who tested positive have died (8,263 in total)
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) September 14, 2021
Following the success of the vaccination programme, serious illness (indicated by hospitalisation) is widely considered a better indicator of the state of the pandemic than the number of positive cases.
Since the middle of last month there have consistently been more than 5,000 new cases recorded each day in Scotland, with the case positivity rate remaining above 10%.
However, the first minister pointed out in parliament today that in the most recent seven-day period the number of cases fell by 12% compared to the previous seven-day period.