Sixteen and 17-year-olds in Scotland are to be offered the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible, Nicola Sturgeon has said, with the rollout to begin from Friday.
Young people will be invited to register their interest this week, with everyone in the age group expected to have been offered an appointment by the end of September.
The move follows a decision by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to advise that the vaccine rollout should be extended.
At present, children over the age of 12 are only eligible for a vaccine if they have certain medical conditions which put them at risk from Covid-19 or teenagers who live with people who are immunocompromised.
The First Minister described the move as a “step forward”, and said it was one that she had been hoping for.
Responding to the announcement by the JCVI, Sturgeon wrote on Twitter: “This is good news and a step forward that I’ve been hoping for.
“I also hope evidence will allow JCVI to recommend vaccine for wider groups of young people in future – but in meantime [the Scottish Government] will get on with offering it to all 16/17 yr olds ASAP.”
It is understood officials are not ruling out vaccinations for otherwise healthy 12 to 15-year-olds but want to look at more information first.
In making its decision, the JCVI said that a number of factors have been considered but the most important element was the risk/benefit of vaccination to the individual.
The Scottish Government said the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 16 and 17-year-olds will begin on Friday and is expected to be complete by the end of September.
The young people will be invited to register their interest through the online portal at NHS Inform, and will then be sent an appointment via SMS or email.
Those in Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles will be contacted by their health board.
Drop-in clinics will also soon be available.
Anyone who does not register or attend a drop-in clinic will be sent an appointment invitation through the post.
Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said the expert advice from the JCVI will continue to be followed.
“In line with the latest JCVI advice we will now be offering a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination to young people aged between 16 and 17,” he said.
“The programme has always carefully assessed all the benefits and potential risks and offered vaccine to groups where this benefit is clear.
“The research and evidence shows that is the case for this age group and they should now be called forward for an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccine.
“We will continue to follow the expert JCVI advice and will await the outcome of analysis of data on second doses for this age group and any additional future advice on vaccination for those in the 12-15 age group.”
Health secretary Humza Yousaf encouraged those who are eligible to take up the offer of a vaccine.
“Getting vaccinated has never been easier and from Friday, 16 and 17-year-olds in mainland Scotland will be able to book an appointment through the online portal,” said Yousaf.
“We know drop-in clinics are a convenient way for young people to get vaccinated and will announce shortly when these clinics will be open for this age group.
“Vaccination continues to be the best way to protect yourself and those around you and I urge anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of the vaccine.
“The national vaccination programme has been a huge success and without doubt, represents our best way out of the pandemic.”