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Covid: Scotland would 'move quickly' to vaccinate children

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Scotland will start to vaccinate children aged between 12 and 15 as quickly as possible if experts recommend it, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The Pfizer-BionTech vaccine was approved for use among the age group by the UK’s medicine regulator last week.

The Scottish government is now awaiting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization on whether it should begin vaccinating children.

Ms Sturgeon said the focus remained on getting all adults vaccinated.

But she told the Scottish Parliament that if the JCVI recommends the use of the vaccine for children over the age of 12, the country would “move as quickly as possible to implement the advice”.

She added: “It is vital that we rely on expert advice in all of our vaccination decisions.

“However, vaccination may well be an important way of giving children greater protection, minimising any further disruption to schooling, and further reducing community transmission of the virus.”

More than half of Scotland’s adult population has now had both doses of a Covid vaccine – with the total number standing at 2,282,203.

Pfizer said its trials had shown 100% efficacy and a strong immune response in children between 12 and 15, and also suggested that the vaccine was safe with no unusual side-effects.

Its use among children in the UK was approved by the MHRA on Friday of last week, with the regulator saying it had carried out a “rigorous review” which showed the vaccine was safe and effective in adolescents.

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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) must now advise governments on whether this age group should be vaccinated as part of the UK rollout.

The UK government has also said it will be guided by expert advise from the JCVI, and that any decision would be “clinically based”.

And it has said that the UK has enough supplies to vaccinate children if the move was recommended by the JCVI.

But some experts have questioned whether it is morally right to vaccinate children – who have an extremely low risk of dying from Covid – in wealthy countries such as the UK rather than donating the extra doses to the rest of the world.

The World Health Organization has already called on wealthy countries to postpone any plans to immunise children.

And Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Scotland at the weekend that she hoped the UK would “step up” to donate vaccines to poorer countries rather than vaccinating teenagers.

Prof Bauld said there were good reasons for vaccinating 12-15 year olds as well over 80% of the total population would need to be vaccinated to achieve population immunity against the virus.

But she said there were many countries around the world where vaccination levels were low but cases were “skyrocketing”.

She said that not addressing vaccine roll-out issues in countries with high levels of infection would curtail global travel in the future and lead to a much higher risk of more dangerous variants emerging.

A further 695 people tested positive for the virus in Scotland on Monday, which was 5% of the total number of tests carried out.

The number of people in hospital with the virus now stands at 121 – one fewer than yesterday – while the number of patients in intensive care units remains at 12.

There have been no deaths registered in the past 24 hours of people who had recently tested positive for Covid.

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