NEARLY 200 children under 16 have been admitted to hospital with Covid in Scotland in the past four weeks, compared to just one who had been vaccinated.

The figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) show that unvaccinated under-16s had a hospitalisation rate of seven per 100,000 compared to 66 per 100,000 for unvaccinated people aged 60 or older.

According to the latest Covid-19 Statistical Report, a total of 192 people under 16 who were admitted to hospital in Scotland between August 21 and September 17 tested positive for the coronavirus which causes Covid.

Of these, 191 were unvaccinated and one had had a single vaccine dose.

READ MORE: Routine vaccinations recommended for teenagers 'to protect education'

The report, which comes as vaccinations are being offered routinely for the first time to all children aged 12 to 15, stresses that the figures "do not differentiate between individuals in hospital with Covid-19 illness requiring hospitalisation compared to those in hospital for other reasons (e.g. routine operations) for whom Covid-19 was identified incidentally through testing".

HeraldScotland: Acute hospital admissions by vaccination status for under-16s who had tested positive for Covid in 14 days prior to admission, on admission, or during hospital stayAcute hospital admissions by vaccination status for under-16s who had tested positive for Covid in 14 days prior to admission, on admission, or during hospital stay

Children aged 12 to 15 who have severe neurodisabilities, Down's Syndrome, immunosuppression, learning disabilities, or who live with someone who is at high risk from Covid, have been eligible for vaccination since early August, with 2,204 having had a single dose to date - equivalent to nearly 63% of this group.

From today, all mainland health boards in Scotland have opened drop-in vaccination clinics to 12 to 15-year-olds following recommendations by the UK's chief medical officers that it would reduce the probability of school outbreaks and disruption to education.

HeraldScotland: Covid infection rates by age group. The virus rate has been declining since August 31 in the 15-19 age group and since September 7 in 0-14 age group (Graphs by @TravellingTabby)Covid infection rates by age group. The virus rate has been declining since August 31 in the 15-19 age group and since September 7 in 0-14 age group (Graphs by @TravellingTabby)

Currently around 28,000 children are absent from school in Scotland for Covid-related reasons, such as infection or self-isolation, but case rates have been falling steeply - by between 39-46% - in school-age children over the past two to three weeks.

Healthy children aged 12 to 15 are being offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine only to minimise the risk of myocarditis, a rare side effect which causes inflammation of the heart tissue and which occurs more commonly after a second dose.

The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation previously decided that it could not recommend a blanket rollout of vaccinations to all 12 to 15-year-olds on health grounds alone as the benefits were "marginal" due to their very low risk of serious illness.

READ MORE: Why it's wrong to blame Scotland's ambulance crisis on Covid cases alone

However, the CMOs concluded that the small health benefit, in terms of protection against infection, coupled with the mental health and welfare benefits associated with safeguarding schooling, tipped the balance in favour of immunisation.

The PHS report also shows that unvaccinated individuals in the population as a whole were two and a half times more likely to test positive for Covid in the week to September 17 than those who were fully vaccinated.

In additional, unvaccinated adults in all age groups were more likely be hospitalised with Covid compared to those who have had both vaccine doses.

HeraldScotland: Acute hospitalisation, by age group and vaccination status, in adults who tested positive for Covid prior to/on admission or during hospital stayAcute hospitalisation, by age group and vaccination status, in adults who tested positive for Covid prior to/on admission or during hospital stay

In the 60 and over age group, 66 in every 100,000 unvaccinated individuals were hospitalised compared to 27 for every 100,000 who were fully vaccinated.

In the 30 to 59 age group, the comparison was 32 per 100,000 compared to eight per 100,000, while for 16 to 29-year-olds it was 11 per 100,000 for the unvaccinated compared to two per 100,000 for the fully vaccinated.

There are not yet enough vaccinated people under-16 to produce a reliable comparison of the hospitalisation rate.

HeraldScotland:

HeraldScotland:

Although hospital admission remains closely related to age, the overall number of infections leading to a hospital admission remains extremely low compared to earlier in the pandemic.

By the week ending September 5, just 2% of those admitted to hospital had tested positive for Covid in the 14 days prior, compared to 12% in January, before most people had been vaccinated.

HeraldScotland:

However, the elderly remain most at risk despite high vaccine coverage.

Those over 80 account for the smallest percentage of Covid infections - roughly 3% of the total - but the highest share of Covid hospital admissions.

In the week ending September 14, there were 1,030 Covid hospital admissions of which 213 (21%) were patients over 80, despite this age group being 100% fully vaccinated.

While vaccines substantially cuts the risk of serious illness, they do not eliminate it, and the risk of breakthrough infections increases - particularly among older people - when virus prevalence in the community is high.

Those aged 29 and under - who represent more than 50% of infections - accounted for 131 (13%) of the Covid hospital admissions.