If the Scottish government had taken the decision to vaccinate teenagers over the summer holidays, before the return to school, it would have been “a very controversial thing to do”, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
During a coronavirus briefing today, Ms Sturgeon was asked if there was any chance that teenagers could be vaccinated before schools return in some parts of Scotland in around three weeks time, given that bringing together thousands of unvaccinated young people could be “a petri dish for another wave of Covid”.
Ms Sturgeon, in response, said that she had considered questions like this “intensely”, but that “in the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament, the government has never departed from the recommendations of the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation)”, and that, currently, its advice would be not to do so.
Last week, the JCVI recommended that vulnerable children at increased risk from Covid be vaccinated but stated that it was not advising routine vaccination of children.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Therefore that’s the answer to your question, ‘why have we not vaccinated teenagers over the summer?’ It’s because we would have been going against the advice – or, acting at an earlier part of the summer, in the absence of advice from the JCVI – and that would have been, I think, if I can say this quite mildly, a very controversial thing for us to have done.”
Ms Sturgeon added that the JCVI was continuing to consider the issue of vaccinating children.
She said the question she wanted an answer to was whether “getting the virus was more or less dangerous than getting the vaccine”.
She added: “If getting the virus is more dangerous than the vaccine, my view would be the answer should be to vaccinate. And if getting the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus, then the answer would be don’t vaccinate.
“It’s quite a binary question and that’s what I’m keen to make sure we have got very, very solid advice from the JCVI around.”
Ms Sturgeon said that Scotland’s chief medical officer, Gregor Smith, was writing today to the JCVI on these issues – as well as to highlight the fact that Scottish schools will go back earlier than in other parts of the UK, so there is “a particular urgency in answering these questions”.
The first minister said that, next week, she would set out the government’s expectations about other mitigations in school, such as the wearing of face coverings, ventilation and self-isolation.