Scottish Labour has called for the government to put a plan in place to ensure new students are fully vaccinated before the start of the new university term.

As Covid-19 in Scotland was on the decline last year, the return of students contributed to a spike in cases that led to restrictions being tightened.

Labour education spokesman Michael Marra has now called for new students to be fully vaccinated by the time universities return from the middle of September.

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He said: “Our young people have missed out on too much already. The Scottish Government must work with our universities to ensure that thousands of new students do not also miss out on protection from the vaccine.

“Simply having been offered an appointment is not enough. This could be weeks away and with progress still to be made in vaccinating 18 to 29-years-olds, there is a risk many will not be covered in time.

“By co-ordinating work with universities, all of these new students could be contacted within days and specific arrangements made.

“These are the young Scots so badly let down by the SQA scandal. They must not be let down again.”

For those starting university at 17 this year, Mr Marra urged the Government to prioritise them if the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommends jabs for those under 18.

“There are specific challenges with those who are 17 years old and about to enter university or college. If vaccination is cleared for under 18s they should be at the front of the queue. It is a small group, easily identifiable and ready to go,” he said.

When asked about the issue by Mr Marra during a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister said all over 18s would have their invitation to receive a first dose of the vaccine “in the coming days”.

She added: “What we need to do also is make sure that uptake of those opportunities is as high as possible, which is the reason for drop-in clinics, the vaccination buses in Glasgow and Edinburgh and the other efforts that we are exploring to get vaccines to young people as quickly as possible.

“More significantly, there will be some 17-year-olds who are going to university and, as of now, we are not vaccinating 17-year-olds.

“We might or might not start to vaccinate them in the future, depending on the JCVI advice.

“Therefore, we will consider providing guidance to that group in particular to help them feel safe and assured as they start university, even though they might not have the full protection of the vaccine that their older peers have. Some important issues are involved.

“We have talked about the work that we are doing to prepare for the start of the school academic term – similarly we need to properly prepare for the start of the university and college terms.

“I know that the Education Secretary will seek to engage more with members on all those issues.”