All over-16s in the UK are set to be given approval for Covid vaccines by regulators in the next few days, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.
Speaking during a question and answer session of the recalled Scottish parliament, the first minister said that she “expected” 16- and 17-year-olds to be allowed to be jabbed by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI).
Sturgeon said she hoped that all over-12s would be also eligible, but stressed that older teenagers were the priority ahead of schools, sixth forms and colleges returning from their summer break in a few weeks.
Several directors of public health across the UK have urged the need for jabs in under-18s and so far only those three months short of their 18th birthday have been approved for vaccination ahead of university.
But to date, only over-12s who have vulnerable medical conditions or learning difficulties are eligible for the jab.
Sturgeon announced that all four chief medical officers in the UK had written to the JCVI, the independent regulator which has come under pressure for not making a decision sooner as the third wave of the pandemic hit the nation.
“I am hoping, possibly veering towards expecting, updated advice from the JCVI literally in the next day or so. And I very much hope that that expectation will prove to be the case,” she said.
“And I am hoping, but this is the JCVI’s advice, that they will recommend further vaccination of people in the 12 to 18 year olds age group.
“But I’m particularly hopeful that we will see some updated recommendations in relation, as a priority as a first part of this, for 16 and 17 year olds.”
Sturgeon said that with ‘informed consent’ and after a thorough risk benefit analysis, she would like to see vaccination offered to all over-12s in time.
“I am as anxious as anybody” to make a decision as soon as possible, Sturgeon said.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told HuffPost UK: “With the JCVI apparently about to give the green light to vaccinating 16 year olds, ministers need to ensure plans are in place to roll out this vital next stage of vaccination while ensuring parents have all the facts and information they need.”
A spokesperson for the department of health and social care (DHSC) said: “We continue to keep the vaccination of children and young people under review and will be guided by the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”
Both Boris Johnson and England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty have said they are waiting for the JCVI to offer its updated advice of jabs for all under-16s.
Whitty has pointed out the ethical and medical considerations of the risks posed by administering the vaccine to youngsters, given their low chance of being hospitalised by infection, when balanced against the risk they pose to adults in transmitting the virus.
Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith wrote last week to the JCVI to highlight the benefits of vaccinating everyone over the age of 12.