Scotland will announce a decision on jabs for 12 to 15 year olds “as soon as possible” after it was recommended by the UK’s chief medical officers.
The UK government’s vaccine committee said there was not enough benefit to warrant it on health grounds alone.
But the CMOs said vaccination would help reduce disruption to education.
Humza Yousaf, the health secretary for Scotland, stated that their conclusion was that the additional likely benefits were sufficient to justify vaccination.
“Health ministers are now considering this advice,” he added, “and we will make a decision as soon as possible.”
If they agree, children will be offered the Pfizer jab.
Children with medical conditions or who live with clinically vulnerable people have already been informed that they can receive the vaccine.
This represents approximately one-tenth of the three million UK children in this age group.
Mr. Yousaf expressed gratitude to Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Gregor Smith, and his three UK counterparts for their “careful consideration” of the issue.
Dr. Smith joined the UK government’s chief medical adviser, Prof. Chris Witty, at a Downing Street briefing to outline the procedure for administering the vaccines.
He explained to parents and children that even though the benefit was “marginal,” it was still preferable to get the vaccine.
“Informed consent in this context is really important, especially when there is a marginal benefit,” he said.
“The first really important point in this is that we should not mistake that for no benefit at all.”
Dr. Smith, a GP himself, stated that it was critical to use “straightforward language” in order to explain the benefits of vaccination “in very child-friendly terms.”
“That is something that general practitioners all over the country are used to doing on a regular basis,” he said.
Scotland’s largest teaching union has been calling for the vaccination of 12-15-year-olds since the JCVI said ministers could take into account other factors in deciding to approve it.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, told the BBC that he welcomed the development because Scotland was experiencing “record levels” of teacher and pupil absences.
“The very high level of pupil infection at the moment is a cause for concern,” he said, “because in secondary schools, teachers will come into contact with over a hundred students in the course of a normal day.”
And because high infection levels among those students pose a greater risk to teachers and other support staff, reducing that risk through vaccination of 12-15 year-olds is a very welcome step.”