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Covid update: Scotland to look at extending vaccinations to 12-17 year-old age group

By David Porter

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Speaking at a briefing today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that discussions are taking place over extending the vaccination programme to those in the 12-17 year-old age group.

She said: "Although case numbers remain high they are very much right now on a downward path.

"To illustrate that point - in the seven days up to July 2, there were an average of 3305 new cases being reported each day but, in the seven days to 16 July, that had fallen to an average of 2112 new cases a day.

"So that amounts to a decline in the past two weeks of more than 1/3 - and that is very encouraging.

"Because of that, we were able to go ahead yesterday with the move to level 0.

"But case numbers - though they are definitely falling - do remain higher than we should be comfortable with.

"Covid as we know is highly infectious - indeed, Delta is significantly more transmissible than previous variants of the virus.

"And although vaccination is weakening the link between Covid cases and serious illness, the virus is still potentially dangerous.

"And, of course, long Covid is affecting many, including those in younger age groups.

"All of this means that vigilance and care remain really important.

"Restrictions were eased yesterday as part of a gradual process – but restrictions were not abandoned yesterday.

"Important measures and mitigations do remain in place - and we continue to ask people across the country and I do so again today to treat the threat that Covid poses seriously at this stage.

She continued: "All adults have now been offered first dose appointments - indeed that has happened earlier than we had initially anticipated.

"And as of now, around 90 per cent of all adults in the population have actually taken up the opportunity and had the first jag administered.

"Also, more than 2/3 of all adults have had the second dose as well – and that proportion will continue to rise on a daily basis, as the programme of second doses continues.

"I think it’s important to say that the level of uptake achieved so far is quite remarkable by the standard of any previous vaccination programme. And it actually exceeds what we dared hoped for when this programme started back at the turn of the year.

"That said, we want to see uptake levels increase further, we want to get as close to 100 per cent uptake as it is possible to do.

"To put it bluntly, each and every single person who gets jagged helps us take a step back to normality.

"And of course the converse of that is true, for as long as there remains a proportion of eligible people who have not had the vaccine that leaves us with a vulnerability against the virus."

She continued: "Although around 90 per cent of all adults have taken up the offer of the first dose, so far amongst 30 - 39 year olds that is only 81 per cent and in the 18 - 29 year old age group it is 70 per cent

"So I want to stress again today and we will keep stressing this that if you are 18 or over, and if you haven’t yet had a first dose, then you can still get it. In fact, we really, really want you to get the first dose of vaccine.

"You can access that by registering online, through NHS inform but remember you don’t have to register – you’re also able to simply turn up at one of the drop-in vaccination centres that are now operational across all mainland health board areas.

"Covid is, and this is something we should always be thankful for, is less of a threat to younger people than to older people – but that doesn’t mean it poses no threat at all to young people.

"Some young people do need hospital care when they get the virus, some young people will even end up in intensive care and of course, as we know, young people can get long Covid which we still don’t fully understand the implications of.

"Vaccination will help protect you from those risks– but it will also help you protect other people."

On extending the vaccinations to younger people she said: "Obviously, we want to extend the protection of the vaccine as far as we can.

"To that end, the advice yesterday from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on the vaccination of 12 to 17 year olds is important and I want to spend just a couple of minutes talking about that.

"At this stage - given that it considers the risk of 12 to 17 year olds falling seriously ill from Covid to be very low - the JCVI is not recommending that we vaccinate all young people in that 12 to 17 year olds age group.

"Now, the Scottish Government has always followed the advice of the JCVI - for good reason.

"You’ll have heard me talk about that before in different contexts including recently that eight week interval between first and second doses.

"But I am acutely aware that some other countries are vaccinating younger teenagers and I certainly consider it to be extremely important that this is not ruled out here.

"So to that end, the Chief Medical Officer is writing to the JCVI asking that the benefit of vaccinating all 12-17 year olds is kept under close and ongoing review – and that it takes account of all available data from countries already doing this.

"I think that it is really important if there is a benefit to be got from vaccinating younger teenagers then it’s really important that we make sure younger people don’t lose out on that.

"In the meantime though and most immediately, we intend to get on with implementing what the JCVI is recommending – and it is recommending that vaccine should be offered to specific groups of 12 to 17 year olds.

"Vaccination is already available to 16 and 17 year olds at higher risk of falling seriously ill and they will continue to be eligible.

"But in addition, the JCVI is advising that 12 to 15 year olds should be eligible for vaccination if they have Down’s Syndrome; severe neuro-disabilities; or underlying conditions that mean their immune systems are suppressed.

"In addition, it advises vaccination for 12 to 15 year olds with severe learning disabilities; with profound and multiple learning disabilities; or who are on the learning disability register.

"Finally, vaccination is recommended for 12 to 17 year olds who are household contacts of people with suppressed immune systems. And in that latter case that is less about the protection of the young person and more about the protection of somebody they may live with.

"We will shortly provide details of our operational plans to vaccinate these groups of young people as quickly as possible.

"And of course in light of what I said earlier about this advice being kept under review, we will make sure that we are prepared to go further as soon as that is recommended. If indeed that is recommended.

"The final point on vaccination I want to stress is that if you are currently 17 years old but if you are due to turn 18 on or before October 31 this year, you are now eligible for vaccination as part of this year’s programme.

"You can self-register again through the portal on NHS Inform or go to a drop in centre.

"So, I want to just emphasise this point today, if you or indeed if you know somebody in this category, if you are due to turn 18 before the end of October, register for an appointment or go to a drop-in centre, and get your vaccination as soon as possible."

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