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Clearance for more under-18s to be inoculated against coronavirus is expected from the government’s official vaccination advisers “within the next few days”, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
There has been increasing pressure from medical experts for teenagers to be given the chance to receive jabs, after the MHRA medicines regulator ruled in June that they are safe for use on over-12s.
But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation last month announced that it was advising inoculation only for 12-17 year-olds with certain medical conditions, as well as those within three months of their 18th birthday.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament today, Ms Sturgeon made clear that she is expecting clearance for jabs for further groups of teenagers within days.
She told MSPs that invitations for 12-17 year-olds with health conditions were now going out and first doses were expected to be offered to this group north of the border by the end of August.
And she added: “I can advise parliament that we are hoping to receive in the next few days updated advice from the JCVI on possible vaccination of others in the younger age groups.
“We stand ready to implement any recommendations as soon as possible.”
She said the Scottish authorities were also preparing to offer booster jabs to those already vaccinated during the autumn, if that is the JCVI’s recommendation.
Virologist Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at Leeds University, said that extension of vaccination to more teenagers would be welcome.
Reports of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis- inflammation of the heart or the tissue surrounding it - in adolescents after receiving the jab appeared to be very rare and to involve only mild illness in most cases, he said.
Dr Griffin told The Independent: “Vaccination should be extended at least to over-12s. It has been approved by the MHRA and it is hard to understand the basis of the JCVI decision last month.
“In America, they have vaccinated something linke 9 million adolescents now, including quite a few million in the 12-15 age group, and they have had no serious problems with myocarditis.
“There is growing evidence that the risk of those sorts of complications is greater from Covid infection than from vaccine side-effcts.
“What is happening now with children, in terms of susceptibility to Covid, is very worrying. There were something like 5,000-plus hospitalisations in July alone, and there is also the risk of long Covid, which the JCVI didn’t discuss in their recommendations. Vaccination is the least we can do for our children.”
A Department of Health spokesperson was unable to confirm whether a fresh announcement was expected from the JCVI, which made its most recent recommendation on 19 July.
The spokesperson said: “We continue to keep the vaccination of children and young people under review and will be guided by the advice of the independent JCVI.”