FM hails ‘significant extension’ of Scotland’s coronavirus vaccine programme

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed a significant extension to Scotland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme – with jabs to be offered to all children aged between 12 and 15, as well as with booster doses for the over-50s.

She hailed the changes – which come after advice from the UK’s chief medical officers and from experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) as a “significant, and very welcome, extension of the vaccine programme”.

The First Minister added that these measures would “help us considerably in our ongoing efforts against this virus”.

From Monday youngsters aged between 12 and 15 will be able to get a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at drop-in clinics across Scotland.

Letters will also be sent out to children in this age group, while the injections will also be given at schools later in vaccination the campaign.

While the JCVI refused to recommend jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds, the chief medical officers looked again at the issue – considering also the effect vaccinations could have on reducing disruption to education.

They recommended going ahead with a vaccine campaign, with Ms Sturgeon confirming to Holyrood the Scottish Government would implement this.

She said: “We believe that vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds is important and we will therefore move to implement the advice as quickly as possible.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross stated that this, together with a booster vaccine campaign for older Scots, had “the potential to be game-changing in halting the spread of Covid this winter”.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

He called for mobile vaccination units at every school “to encourage uptake, particularly those in areas where vaccination rates are low”.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said all youngsters who wanted to be vaccinated should be able to get their jab by the start of the October school holiday.

“The Scottish Government must ensure that all 12 to 15-year-olds who want a vaccine are vaccinated by the beginning of the October school holidays.”

In addition to vaccinating younger secondary school students, Ms Sturgeon confirmed booster vaccines will be offered to all adults over 50, to frontline health and care workers, and some others.

Health workers will be able to book these from Monday September 20, along with care home residents and those in receipt of regular flu jabs, while those over 70 or at high risk will be contacted by their GP soon, the First Minister said.

Children aged between 12 and 15 will be given the Pfizer vaccine (PA/PA Wire)
Children aged between 12 and 15 will be given the Pfizer vaccine (PA/PA Wire)

Other groups, including all adults over 50, those with underlying conditions, adult carers, unpaid and young carers or those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed, will be able to book a jab online from October.

Ms Sturgeon announced the changes to the vaccination campaign as she said that Covid cases in Scotland, while still at a high level, were “actually starting to fall slightly”.

There were 3,375 positive cases of coronavirus confirmed on Monday, representing 11.4% of all tests carried out.

Meanwhile the number of people in hospital with the virus has risen by 16 to 1,064, with 89 people in intensive care.

A further 21 new deaths have been reported amongst people who were confirmed as having Covid in the past 28 days – with this taking the total under this measurement to 8,263.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

However in the week to September 11, the number of new cases fell to an average of 5,506 per day – a drop of 12% from the previous week.

Ms Sturgeon said this showed that the “extra care” being taken by people to “try to stop the spike” was proving effective.

She added, however, that the “position remains challenging”, saying that “even though new cases have fallen, they remain five times higher than at the start of August”.

With students now returning to universities across Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said it was important to “continue efforts to keep cases on a downward track”.