THE leader of Scotland’s largest teachers’ union has called for Nicola Sturgeon to launch a coronavirus vaccination programme for secondary school pupils.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS), made the call after official data revealed the number of under 20s being infected was increasing and that the rise was leading to a record number of Covid hospital admissions among this age group.

He said he would like all teenagers in high school to be offered the jag to protect them, to stop any spread to teachers and to minimise disruption to pupils’ education.

The EIS chief has raised the matter with the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Education Recovery Group (Cerg) , of which he is a member, and will continue to press for it throughout meetings this summer.

“The number of children testing positive for Covid has reached a record high in recent weeks so it follows that more have had to be admitted to hospital,” he told the Sunday National.

“We are very concerned about easing of mitigations in schools. Our position is we support the vaccination of 12 to 18 year olds – the secondary school population. We have raised this with Cerg and said it might be required to make schools safer places.”

He added: “There will be teachers who are going back in August who haven’t been double jagged. They will be at risk and if they end up going off that will impact on education. Given the risks that the virus presents the voluntary vaccination of secondary school pupils seems like a sensible step. We are in favour of vaccination being offered.”

Last month the UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds after it had already been approved for 16 and 17 year olds.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts has also concluded the Pfizer vaccine is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above. Many European countries, including France, Denmark and Switzerland have already begun giving the jags to children over 12 with others, including Spain, due to launch programmes before the end of the summer holidays.

Singapore, Japan, the UAE, Israel, the US, China, Canada and the Philippines have also decided to offer vaccines to all those aged 12 and over.

In the US more than 30% of 12 to 15-year-olds had received the first dose by 29 June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, to date there are no plans to vaccinate children in Scotland or across the UK.

The UK Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is still considering whether to roll out the programme to 12 to 15 year olds. A decision is believed to be imminent.

Parents support Flanagan’s call.

HeraldScotland:

Ciara MacLaverty (above with her daughter), who lives in Glasgow, said she would like to see her son Hugh Macdonald, 12, offered the vaccine before he returns to school next month and her daughter Tess Macdonald be vaccinated when she turns 12 next March.

“There is so much we don’t know about the virus. Recent reports are that it can cause diabetes and even neurological damage. Brain scans have shown it can cause a reduction in grey matter.

“There are a growing number of kids in hospital having fallen seriously ill with the virus and others with long Covid. There is a safe vaccine available so why can’t they get it?”she said. “Tess has asthma. She has been in hospital with asthma and that is not something I want to see happen to her again.”

MacLaverty thought the JCVI were dragging its feet and feared the UK would end up an “outlier” in terms of deciding not to vaccinate children.

“Boris Johnson is an outlier. He has done everything differently from other countries. I would like to see Nicola Sturgeon take a different approach if the UK Government decides not to vaccinate children,” she said.

Helen Goss, spokeswoman for Long Covid Kids Scotland, also called for over 12s to have a choice.

​READ MORE: Vaccinating children: Is it too risky - or too dangerous not to?

Goss’s daughter Anna, eight, has been unable to return to school through ill health after contracting Covid in Spring last year. She now is being treated for long Covid, with symptoms including extreme tiredness and brain fog.

“There has been a huge increase in children getting Covid and it seems to be flying under the radar right now. And there is evidence children are driving the current Delta variant,” she said.

“This is not a trivial situation. We think teenagers should have the choice if they want to be vaccinated.”

According to the most recent official figures from Public Health Scotland, some 26 youngsters under ten and 16 between the ages of 10 and 19 were admitted to hospital with Covid in the week ending June 29, a rise from 23 just a few weeks earlier.

Scotland has seen a surge in patients needing hospital care with the more infectious Delta variant now responsible for most cases. According to a Scottish Government report published on Friday the R number is currently between 1.2 and 1.5.

Last month the First Minister said the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds made her “heart sing” .

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are providing the vaccine to people on a priority basis as set out by the independent expert clinicians and scientists on the JCVI.

“Current JCVI advice does not cover vaccination in those under 18 years old. So far only 16 and 17 years olds in groups 1-9 are covered.”