‘False tension’ over debate on child vaccination priority

The Scottish Government has said it would be ready to give the jab to 12-15-year-olds if health officials give it the go-ahead.

Pornpak Khunatorn via IStock

The debate between whether children in Scotland should be vaccinated against Covid or other countries should be helped to immunise adults against the virus is a “false tension” according to a leading ethics expert.

While there have been repeated calls to vaccinate young people throughout the country, others are demanding more action to accelerate the rollout to poorer nations first.

Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra, Chancellor’s Fellow in Bioethics and Global Health Ethics at Edinburgh University, believes both sides of the argument are possible as with the availability of different versions of the vaccine.

She told STV News: “I think this tension between vaccinating our children versus vaccinating adults elsewhere is, in part, a false tension.

ADVERT

“The vaccine that’s been approved for 12-15-year-olds is the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and most probably the vaccine we’d be sending across the world would be the Astra-Zeneca in part because it is easier to transport and store.”

Safety regulator MRHA has given its approval for the Pfizer jab to be used on children aged 12-15 but the Scottish and UK Governments are waiting on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to decide whether it should be given to that age group.

On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the focus remained on getting all adults vaccinated but if the JCVI recommends vaccination of children, she said Scotland would “move as quickly as possible to implement the advice”.

Scottish Government adviser, Professor Devi Sridhar, has backed the rollout of the vaccine to those over the age of 12 in order to allow schools to return to normal after the summer break.

ADVERT

She said: “There’s three arguments to vaccinate kids. The first is there’s still the risk of long covid – that means getting chronically ill, having kids that don’t recover after several weeks.

“The second is so that children don’t transmit it. We know we will see clusters in secondary schools if we don’t vaccinate kids – so we protect teachers, protect communities through making sure that they don’t spread it.

‘If we want secondary schools to return normally in the autumn we really need to start vaccinating into those age groups.’

Professor Devi Sridhar

“The third is we could see a new variant emerge that does affect kids, and if we leave a large percentage of our population susceptible – meaning completely unprotected- we would be behind the curve.

“So I think that we should get ahead of the issue, start moving now as soon as we get the supply in so actually we can have a full return in the autumn.”

She added: “If we look at other countries -The United States and Israel – they’ve already started using this vaccine in the 12 to 15 age group.

“The trials are incredibly promising in terms of actually stopping Covid-19 illness, and if we want secondary schools to return normally in the autumn we really need to start vaccinating into those age groups.”

STV News
Erica Sandlan supports the idea of children getting the vaccine.

Erica Sandlan, a 14-year-old school pupil living in Glasgow, is just finishing her second year of secondary after spending several months at home due to the recent coronavirus lockdown.

ADVERT

She believes vaccinating pupils will help prevent future lockdowns and avoid another spell of home learning for schoolchildren.

‘Some of my teachers had to go home and isolate for two weeks and currently the year below me – almost the entire year is away home.’

Erica Sandlan

She told STV News: “I feel like over this last year I’ve missed out on school but also meeting a lot of people.

 “Since we’ve been back at school, we’ve quite a lot of people and classes going home.

“Some of my teachers had to go home and isolate for two weeks and currently the year below me – almost the entire year is away home.”

Erica added: “I feel like if everyone got vaccinated before next term – after summer – I feel like it would have a bigger effect on not being out of school and not having classes sent home as much. 

“However I do feel like we will have to keep wearing masks, be socially distanced and have different times for everything.”

This week coronavirus infections in children have reached their highest level since the pandemic began in Scotland.

More than 1000 under-15s tested positive in the week to June 7, as Scotland recorded its highest number of new coronavirus cases in almost four months.

More than 100 children were confirmed with the virus every day in the week, with 186 testing positive on Monday.


New travel rules begin for double jabbed EU and US arrivals

Double vaccinated travellers from the US and the EU can now travel to Scotland without quarantining.

Andrew Milligan via PA Media
The rule change for US and EU arrivals came into effect at 4am on Monday morning.

Double vaccinated travellers from the US and the EU can travel to Scotland without quarantining from Monday morning.

The rules changed at 4am following a decision by the Scottish Government earlier this week, hours after UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the relaxation of measures for England.

Subject to countries remaining on the amber travel list, travellers will no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in Scotland.

The change does not apply to people who have been in France in the 10 days prior to their arrival, due to concerns over the Beta variant of coronavirus.

ADVERT

Travellers need to show a negative test before departure and produce a negative PCR test result on day two after arrival.

The requirement to take a further PCR test on day eight is being dropped.

Those arriving will be required to show either the EU Digital Covid Certificate or the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s white card – known as a CDC card – to prove they are fully vaccinated

Announcing the changes last week, Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson the change is down to “overwhelming success” of the vaccination scheme in Scotland as well as “successful rollouts” of vaccine programmes in the EU and US.

ADVERT

He said: “Fully vaccinated travellers will be able to travel to Scotland under this significant relaxation of international travel measures, providing a boost for the tourism sector and wider economy while ensuring public health is protected.”

He urged people to “continue to think very carefully about travelling – especially given the prevalence and unpredictable nature of variants of concern”.

The relaxation of the rules extends to the four European Free Trade Association members – Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein – and the microstates of Monaco, Andorra and Vatican City.

Humza Yousaf reports nursery over ‘racial discrimination’

The health secretary said an application for his two-year-old daughter was refused twice by a Dundee nursery.

STV News / © Google Maps 2020
The health secretary detailed the application process on Twitter.

Humza Yousaf has said he is seeking legal advice after raising concerns that his daughter was discriminated against by a nursery.

The health secretary explained that an application for his two-year-old daughter was refused twice by Little Scholars Day Nursery in Dundee.

However, he said that an application made by a white Scottish friend for a child of the same age was accepted within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a second application under the name ‘Sara Ahmad’ was rejected.

ADVERT

An investigation by the Daily Record newspaper also found that an application they made under the name ‘Aqsa Akhtar’ to the nursery was rejected, whilst one under the name of ‘Susan Blake’ was offered a choice of four afternoons.

Yousaf said that he has now reported the nursery to the Care Inspectorate, as well as having sought legal advice.

The nursery told the Daily Record that it is “open and inclusive to all” and said that any claim to the contrary is “demonstrably false”, and that they would refute any such accusation in the “strongest possible terms”.

STV News has also contacted the nursery for comment.

ADVERT

Detailing the experience on Twitter on Monday morning, Yousaf said the step taken by him and his wife had not been taken lightly.

He said: “After our nursery application for our daughter was refused a 2nd time, my wife asked her white Scottish friend to put in an application for a Child the same age.

“Within 24hrs of refusing our application my wife’s friend’s was accepted. I was sure there must be rational explanation but my wife felt differently.

“She created a profile with a white Scot name & made an application, she also asked her sister ‘Sara Ahmed’ to submit an application on same day. Her sister was rejected but white Scot application accepted.

“At this point we asked @anniebrownword at @Daily_Record to investigate. She created two profiles with kids same age, their requirements the same.

“‘Aqsa Akhtar’ application was rejected while ‘Susan Blake’ was offered a choice of 4 afternoons. No explanation has been forthcoming.”

Yousaf continued: “I cannot tell you how angry I am. As a father all I want to do is protect my girls, yet aged 2 I believe my daughter has faced discrimination.

ADVERT

“If this had not happened to me I’m not sure I would have believed it could happen in 2021. How many other families has this happened to?

“We are fooling ourselves if we believe discrimination doesn’t exist in Scotland. I believe evidence we have proves our case beyond doubt. As well as reporting the nursery to Care (Inspectorate) we are also seeking legal advice.”


Man’s heartache over Home Office blunder after grandson’s death

Three-year-old Mohamad passed away in a refugee camp while his grandparents fought to bring him to safety.

STV News
Heartbroken: Nidal and family.

A Syrian grandfather has told STV News of his heartbreak after receiving a Home Office letter refusing his request to be united with his grandson – after the child had died.

Three-year-old Mohamad passed away in a refugee camp while his grandparents fought to bring him to safety in Scotland.

Nidal Ali Al Naboulssi never got to meet his grandson Mohamed.

The child was born amid bombing and air strikes – and died at the age of three at the camp in Lebanon.

ADVERT

Nidal said: “The child used to call us every single morning. And he used to wake us up.

“My daughters were looking forward to seeing him as well.

“We just wanted to live as a family, happily ever after.”

The 57-year-old fled war in Syria with his wife in 2017, making their home in East Dunbartonshire.

ADVERT

When he applied to the Home Office for his daughter, her husband and two sons to join them the application was refused. By that time Mohamad had died.

He said: “That made us feel even worse. Just now we are receiving mental health appointments. Because if it wasn’t for the war, we would be living as a family.”

The Naboulssi’s are one of many families split across borders.

Nidal is hoping his daughter and her surviving child will now be allowed to travel to Scotland on compassionate grounds.

He said: “All our neighbours, when they heard the devastating news about our grandson, they came to pay their respects. Honestly I don’t feel they are neighbours or friends… I feel like they are family.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “All applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, the evidence provided and in accordance with the immigration rules.

“We apologise for the distress the correspondence must have caused to Mr. Naboulssi and his family, and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”


Cleaners and bin collectors urged to reject Covid exemption

Organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation if exposed to coronavirus.

Kozmoat98 via IStock
Bin collector: Workers advised to reject self-isolation exemption.

More than 2000 local authority street cleaners and bin collectors have been advised to refuse to return to work and instead self-isolate if they have been exposed to coronavirus.

The Scottish Government recently announced that organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation.

If the Government deems a critical role can be exempt, the worker still has to prove they have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks prior to any close contact, have a negative PCR test and agree to carry out lateral flow tests for 10 days after the contact.

But following talks with workplace representatives, the GMB union has advised its more than 2300 members in cleansing and waste services in Scottish local government, including Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire and West Lothian councils, to refuse self-isolation exemptions.

ADVERT

The GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, Drew Duffy, said: “A major underlying factor in the so-called pingdemic is the chronic understaffing in our frontline services after years of cuts, and our cleansing and waste is no different.

“But the Scottish Government’s new guidance has opened the door for employers across the country to heap more pressure on these key workers if they have been exposed to Covid-19. That’s not safe for workers, families, or communities.

“And again, some of the lowest paid are being asked to take the greatest risk in another example of how poorly they are valued by Government. You cannot cut and coerce your way out of a crisis, if you want services to function then you must invest in them.

“That lesson needs to be learned, and it’s why we are advising our members to exercise their right to refuse and instead follow the general self-isolation rules if they are exposed to Covid-19.”

ADVERT

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Self-isolation rules already state that exemption will only be granted in respect of members of staff who voluntarily agree not to self-isolate, and the employers’ duty of care to all their employees must be respected.”

Laura Muir feeling prepared after sealing 1500m semi-final

European champion clocks four minutes 03.89 seconds to reach the 1500 metres semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Michael Steele / Staff via Getty Images
Laura Muir in action during round one of the women's 1500m heats.

Laura Muir warned she is saving her best for last after launching her bid for Olympic glory.

The Scot clocked four minutes 03.89 seconds in Tokyo on Monday to reach the 1500 metres semi-finals.

Muir, the European champion, came second in her heat behind Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford but insisted there was plenty in the tank.

“You don’t want to have any disrespect to any of the girls out here, but I want to save as much as I can for the final,” she said ahead of Wednesday’s semis.

ADVERT

“It’s gone as smooth as it could be – I’ve been out in Japan for a couple of weeks now so feeling really prepared and it’s really good.

“It didn’t feel that fast so that’s good. I just wanted to qualify for the next round as comfortably as possible. So that felt really good out there today and I am looking forward to the semi-final.”

Rival and favourite, the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan, fell at the start of the final lap in her heat but still managed to win after overhauling the field in a stunning final 350m. Hassan is attempting to win the 1500m, 5,000m and 10,000m.

Team GB’s Katie Snowden also progressed in four minutes 02.77secs but Revee Walcott-Nolan missed out by 0.01s.

ADVERT

Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou took the men’s long jump title with a leap of 8.41m after world champion Tajay Gayle pulled out injured while Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico claimed gold in the women’s 100m hurdles.

In the women’s 200m – without Team GB star Dina Asher-Smith after she pulled out following her battle with a hamstring injury – 100m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah progressed to the semi-finals.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who claimed 100m silver, won her heat in 22.22s but Shericka Jackson missed out after the sprinter completed a Jamaican clean sweep in the 100m on Saturday.

Great Britain’s Beth Dobbin ran a season’s best of 22.78s to reach Monday evening’s semis.

She said: “I can’t ask for much more than that, I ran the bend how I wanted to and the straight felt really controlled. There’s more in the legs later.

“I could see I was in contention so I tried to stay relaxed. There’s a couple of tenths from that run. I need to see how I recover.

“It’s one of the most stacked 200m I have seen for a long time and it’s missing a few names.

ADVERT

“I walked for the bus at 7.30am and it was blisteringly hot, I’m from up north – we’re not used to this weather.”

Restriction easing delay ’caused drop in business confidence’

Business confidence fell 14 points in July to 28%, the steepest among the nations and regions of the UK.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Restrictions in Scotland were eased in July.

Postponing plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in Scotland may be behind a fall in business confidence, analysts have said.

Business confidence fell 14 points in July to 28%, according to the latest Business Barometer from the Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking.

The fall was the steepest among the nations and regions of the UK.

In late June, Nicola Sturgeon announced that plans to move the whole of Scotland to the lowest level of coronavirus restrictions – level zero – would be postponed from June 28 to July 19.

ADVERT

Most major legal restriction are expected to be lifted on August 9.

Scottish firms reported lower confidence in their own business prospects month on month, down nine points at 33%.

Combined with their optimism on the economy, down 20 points to 23%, this gives a headline confidence reading of 28%.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends regionally and nationwide.

ADVERT

The UK as a whole experienced a much smaller drop in confidence month on month, down three points to 30%.

A net balance of 13% of businesses in Scotland expect to increase staff levels over the next year, down five points on last month.

Confidence dipped in broad economic sectors in Scotland, down from 35% to 33% for manufacturing, and 36% to 32% in retail, but was said to remain at “historically strong levels”.

The construction and services sectors also recorded marginal drops in confidence, down two points to 33% and three points to 28% respectively.

However, some subsectors showed particularly strong growth in confidence, with hospitality rising from 38% to 63% and transport jumping from 37% to 53%.

Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking, said: “The decision by the Scottish Government to postpone the complete easing of lockdown restrictions until August may have a part to play in the subdued confidence among Scottish firms this month.

“But while business optimism has taken a hit, the overall picture is still positive and we know many firms, particularly those in the hospitality and tourism industry, are gearing up to reopen fully and take advantage of what will hopefully be a busy summer season.”

Electric vehicle rollout ‘could slow due to lithium deficit’

Experts say lithium demand could triple by 2025 to one million tonnes per year as carmakers invest in electric vehicles.

Extreme Media via IStock
Experts say electric vehicle sales could slow due to worldwide deficit in lithium needed for car batteries.

The speed in the rise of UK electric vehicle (EV) sales could slow within the next few years due to a worldwide deficit in the lithium needed for car batteries, according to experts.

Since June, car giants GM and Stellantis, which owns Peugeot, Fiat and Citroen, have pledged 30 billion dollars (£21.6bn) and 35 billion (US) dollars (£25.2bn) respectively in electrification investments in the next four years.

But core to this strategy is the need to secure a long-term supply of raw materials including lithium.

As a result lithium demand could triple by 2025 to one million tonnes per year and then double again to two million tonnes per year by 2030 – the year the UK plans to ban new petrol and diesel car sales.

ADVERT

With the typical lithium mine producing 30,000 tonnes per year of the chemical, this means the market needs approximately four new mines per year to maintain pace with demand.

But experts point out it takes five to seven years to discover, develop and put a lithium mine into production.

Chris Berry, president of Washington DC-based strategic metals advisory firm House Mountain Partners, warned: “The dramatic pace of UK electric vehicle sales growth runs the risk of slowing without a clear pathway to additional supply of lithium and associated battery metals.”

He added: “On top of sales, UK auto manufacturers risk being left behind by their Chinese, US, German, and Japanese auto peers who are in a race to ensure they have their electric supply chain in place for the rest of the decade.”

ADVERT

The UK is one of the fastest growing EV markets in Europe with plug-in vehicles accounting for 11% of the UK market.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, battery electric vehicle sales rose 186% to 108,000 vehicles.

Mild hybrid electric vehicles grew 184% and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles increased 91%.

But there have been concerns raised in Parliament that the UK’s charging infrastructure needs significant upgrades, especially for households with no off-street parking.

Last week, the Transport Committee of MPs also said charging must be fair, with public charge points significantly more expensive than tariffs for charging at home.

In terms of lithium supply, the UK has no current hard-rock mining operation in commercial production and European supply is several years away.

The bulk of the lithium for UK electric vehicles is currently coming from Australia and South America.

ADVERT

Lithium producer, Ana Cabral-Gardner, co-chairman of Canada’s Sigma Lithium, said: “The race is on to meet increasing demand for high-quality lithium that is environmentally produced at a low-cost before a potential deficit for the mineral.

“The world is accelerating efforts to go green faster than the mining industry is able to sustainably produce battery quality lithium.

“UK consumers want their products to be green from extraction to production and distribution – not many mining companies can deliver this right now either.”

Scaling the small lithium-producing industry will require tens of billions of dollars in capital.

This is likely to result in a lithium market shortage by 2023 to 2024 given that lithium demand should grow at a 20% compound annual growth rate through at least the middle of this decade.

Mr Berry added: “Clearly the horse is out of the barn and the UK auto industry has realised that its future rests with the successful electrification of their vehicle fleets.

“Success with this transformation rests with ensuring a secure supply of battery raw materials including lithium.”

Through The Looking Glass coin released by Royal Mint

The £5 crown is based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations of Lewis Carroll's book.

PA Wire via PA Media
New coin features Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

A new coin commemorating 150 years since Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass has been launched by The Royal Mint.

The £5 crown is based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations of the book, which was the sequel of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It shows the moment protagonist Alice runs into mischievous characters Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

The Royal Mint collaborated with EL&N Cafe in London to create a limited-edition Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland cake selection to celebrate the new design.

ADVERT

The cake selection includes designs based on the Queen of Hearts from the original book.

It comes after a coin depicting the scene where Alice meets the Cheshire Cat was released last month.

Both coins were created by the mint’s designer Ffion Gwillim and sculptor Emma Noble.

Clare Maclennan, a director at the Royal Mint, said after the last release: “Inspired by Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations, the beautiful £5 crown has been crafted to the finest quality, combining traditional minting skills with innovation in design technology.

ADVERT

“I’m sure the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland range will become a popular choice for collectors, capturing the imagination of people of all ages, and to launch at the awe-inspiring Victoria and Albert Museum during the 150th anniversary of Through the Looking-Glass is a fitting celebration.”

More on:

Swimmer Duncan Scott makes history at Tokyo Olympics

The Scot is the first British athlete to win four medals at a single Olympics.

PA Images via PA Media
Superstars: Luke Greenbank, Duncan Scott, James Guy and Adam Peaty.

Swimmer Duncan Scott is the first British athlete to win four medals at a single Olympics.

While Scott made history, Adam Peaty and James Guy were unable to collect their third golds of Tokyo 2020 after the United States secured top spot in the men’s 4×100m medley relay.

Peaty said the “pain” he feels at settling for silver shows how much progress Great Britain has made in the pool in the last decade.

It took a world record time to beat the 2019 world championship-winning Team GB quartet of Luke Greenbank, Peaty, Guy and Scott as the Americans clocked 3:26.78 seconds at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

ADVERT

Britain finished 0.73secs adrift at 3:27:51 in a new European record time as they claimed a record eighth swimming medal – four golds, three silvers and a bronze – beating their previous best haul from the 1908 London Games.

They were unable to win a race at London 2012 while Peaty was their only gold medallist at Rio four years later, so the 26-year-old from Uttoxeter admitted to feeling bittersweet by the result of the final swimming event in Japan.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the American team,” Peaty said.

“They stepped up big time. They knew they had to step up big time. It’s an Olympic silver, people would die for that.

ADVERT

“We will enjoy it but there is a little bit of pain there. Maybe you need that. Maybe you need that going to Paris (2024).

“Ten years ago we were happy making finals. We aren’t happy making finals any more.

“We are happy doing silver and medalling – that’s the culture that is different now – and that’s part of our success. We are aiming for gold, we are aiming to be the best in the world and dominate the world.

“By the time Paris comes around we are going to develop. A lot of teams are going to look at us. We are always looking for gold and for world records, I’m incredibly proud to be part of this team – it’s history-making.”

Peaty swam the fastest breaststroke split ever in 56.53s to vault Britain from seventh after the backstroke to first by the halfway point, but the vaunted Caeleb Dressel seized the initiative with the best-ever butterfly leg.

Dressel, who bagged his fifth gold of these Games in this race, put in a time of 49.03s to set the stage for Zach Apple to complete the job, with Scott unable to make any inroads in the last freestyle leg.

Dressel, said: “I was telling Adam that I think they bring out the best in us, it’s so fun racing with those guys because you don’t know what you’re going to get. There’s no guaranteed winner.”

ADVERT

Scott has won gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay and silver in the solo event, as well as finishing runner-up in the 200m individual medley, and it was another second spot on the podium as he made British history on Sunday.

He said: “It’s not really hit me what’s happened. Each race I’ve tried to park when it’s done and look forward to the next one. It was important I didn’t bring in any disappointment or get too excited about what’s happened.

“I think the relay culture in Britain is great. There are great medal opportunities. I’ve got to give a massive credit to my teammates.”

A period of rest and recovery now awaits. Asked how they will unwind, Guy joked “a burger and some chips will do me” while Peaty offered a more sobering reflection at how important time away from the pressures of the sport is.

He said: “You’ve got to celebrate, it’s been hard for everyone. We’re not allowed to touch the water for a month now because it is going to be a war of attrition over the next three years.

“You’re seeing it in all sports now. You’re seeing it with Simone Biles, with Ben Stokes, mental health matters and it is about getting the balance right at that elite level. We love to celebrate, and why shouldn’t we?”

Ben Proud earlier finished fifth in the men’s 50m freestyle final won by Dressel in an Olympic record time of 21.07s, while Daniel Jervis also placed fifth in a 1500m freestyle race where Robert Finke of the USA triumphed in 14:39.65.

Commenting on Scott’s historic win, Mel Young, chair of sportscotland, said: “What a sensational result.

“Duncan Scott is now one of the most decorated British Olympians of all time having won four medals in Tokyo – an unparalleled achievement in modern history. He has made the entire country proud.

“His achievements will take a while to sink in but what is clear is this did not happen overnight.

“Duncan is one of the most dedicated athletes around and has put so much hard work into his training along with his coach, his wider support team and everyone at both Scottish Swimming and British Swimming.

“He deserves all the success and praise he is now rightfully receiving.”


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?