Scots aged between 40 and 50 will be able to get a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the Scottish Government has said.
The announcement comes after a similar move in England, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
The change would also allow for a second dose to be given to those who are aged 16 or 17 years old.
Booster jabs were offered to the over-50s and the most clinically vulnerable – or those who live with people who are – but the move will expand the programme further.
Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “The JCVI has advised that people aged 40-49 will now be eligible for a Covid-19 booster.
“These will be offered once the earlier agreed priority groups have had their booster injections to ensure the most vulnerable groups are offered protection first.
“The 40 to 49-year-old group will soon be able to book their own appointments through the NHS online portal – which is now live for 50 to 59-year-olds.
“Young people aged 16 and 17 years old are now eligible for a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine following the most recent JCVI advice.
“The vaccine will be offered from 12 weeks after their first vaccination. In cases where an individual in this group has had a positive PCR test for Covid-19, the JCVI recommends the second dose should be given at least 12 weeks following infection.”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf told the PA news agency on Monday: “We’re looking quickly to examine and explore how quickly we’re able to operationalise that.
“I’m meeting with the vaccine team later on this afternoon and we’ll be talking about how we operationalise that advice and also the advice on 16 to 17-year-olds the JCVI have provided.”
He added: “We’ll try to operationalise it as quickly as possible.
“Remember there’s a huge, significant number of those 40 to 49-year-olds who won’t be eligible for the booster yet, because they have to wait six months until their second dose.
“I think the vast majority of them become eligible early into next year.”
On Monday, over-50s were invited to book their third dose through an online portal – a month later than previously announced.
It is not yet clear how long the booster programme will take, with the initial group due to be completed in early January.
For the younger age group, Dr Smith said he was “delighted” that 76% had received a first dose, but said a timetable is yet to be put in place for the second.
Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane urged the Scottish Government to reopen mass vaccination centres to provide boosters.
“Covid booster jags are our best weapon to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.
“As the booster programme expands to include younger people, it’s vital that the Government does everything in its power to make sure as many jags as possible are delivered before Christmas.
“The booster jag rollout could be going much faster if we had mass clinics operating again to complement the current local delivery method.”
Dr Gulhane added: “To halt the spread of Covid, the Government’s first step should be reopening mass vaccination centres, instead of considering introducing more stringent restrictions that would damage jobs, businesses and people’s mental health.”