Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that new advice from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in the coming days will recommend opening up the vaccine programme to 16- and 17-year-olds across the UK.
Making a statement to the Scottish parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Sturgeon told MSPs that she was “hoping” to get the updated advice from the JCVI “over the next day or so”.
Previously the committee concluded that the health benefits of vaccinating the over-12s would be “small”.
During the subsequent question-and-answer session with MSPs, Sturgeon explained: “The JCVI are our advisory body so they have to give us the advice they think is right and I respect that. I am hoping it will recommend going further on the vaccination of young people.
“I am particularly concerned if possible to get vaccinations to 16- and 17-year-olds, which is obviously important for those who will be, for example, going to college and university and mingling with older young people who are vaccinated. But we’ll see what that advice brings and we stand ready to implement that as quickly as possible.”
She later said she was hoping and “veering towards expecting” the committee to recommend further vaccination of people in the 12- to 18-year-olds age group, and in particular “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”.
The committee has previously stopped short of offering the vaccine to all teenagers.
Children over 12 with certain health conditions and those who live with vulnerable people were added to the vaccine programme last month, but the JCVI said it could identify little benefit in doing so for all 12- to 17-year-olds, although other countries including the US and Canada have taken the step.
Sturgeon recently called for the committee to keep this under review, saying it was “extremely important that this is not ruled out here”.
Scotland’s chief medical officer wrote to the JCVI at that time asking for the benefit of vaccinating all 12- to 17-year-olds to be “kept under close and ongoing review”.