THE number of children being admitted to hospital in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19 is at a record high, The National can reveal.

According to the most recent official figures from Public Health Scotland, some 26 youngsters under 10, and 16 between the ages of 10 and 19, were brought into acute medical care in the week ending June 29. The total of 42 marks a rise from 23 just a few weeks earlier.

Previously, the largest number of under 20s in hospital after testing positive was 28 on January 12, at the height of the second wave of infections. At this point there were 20 under-10s and eight children and young people in hospital aged between 10 to 19.

Scotland has seen a surge in patients needing hospital care with the more infectious Delta variant now responsible for most cases.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Younger patients behind new surge in hospital admissions

Some doctors also believe the mutation, which originated in India, may cause a more severe illness, including to children and young people.

Official data from Public Health Scotland (PHS) shows that younger people more generally are behind a new surge in patients having to be admitted to hospital with over 40s protected from severe illness after being vaccinated.

Scottish Greens health spokeswoman Gillian Mackay said the new figures proved wrong the belief that children cannot get seriously ill with Covid.

She said: "It's clear that not only can children get Covid-19, they can also get very sick with it too.

"The implications of long Covid are not yet understood, but children are at risk of developing serious and long term symptoms as a result of being infected.

"That's why I have raised concerns that the Scottish Government is reviewing self-isolation rules for school children when half the population is not yet vaccinated.

“Global health experts have warned the UK not to ‘tolerate high case numbers’ before the vaccine programme is completed, and it is vital Scotland doesn’t follow this dangerous path.”

The rising number of under-20s being admitted to hospital seriously ill with coronavirus last night prompted parents to call for children to be offered the vaccine.

Helen Goss, of Long Covid Kids Scotland, whose daughter Anna, eight, has been unwell since she contracted Covid in April last year, said the Scottish Government should act to allow parents to have their children vaccinated.

“The vaccine has been approved for children over 12 so parents should be given the choice over whether to have their children vaccinate," she said.

"I would like to see children being given the choice to be vaccinated before schools return after the holidays next month.”

Last month the UK's medicines regulator approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech 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 that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above.

Many countries in Europe and across the world are now vaccinating children of 12 and over.

France, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland are among the countries which have already begun vaccinating children over 12, while Spain plans to start ahead of schools returning in September after the summer holidays.

Outside Europe, Singapore, Japan, the UAE, Israel, the US, China, Canada and the Philippines have also decided to give jabs to all those aged 12 and over. 

The US is one of the countries that has made the most progress so far, with more than 30% of 12 to 15-year-olds receiving 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.

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

She welcomed the announcement by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after its review of the jab’s safety, quality and effectiveness.

However, she stressed that under-16s were unlikely to start receiving it in the near future.

Asked about the UK-wide decision, she said that the Scottish Government would wait for advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations (JCVI) on whether to include younger people in the vaccine rollout and if so how it would be done.

Speaking at the Government’s coronavirus briefing in early June, Sturgeon said: “Any good news on vaccines makes my heart sing. And I think given the more challenging figures we’re seeing right now, all good news on vaccines is welcome. I think it is really positive news.”

Asked about the record number of children in hospital after testing positive for Covid, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We should never be complacent about hospitalisation for anyone, no matter their age, and where children have been hospitalised, this will be a worrying time for them and their families, but our NHS will deliver them the best care possible.

“As the effect of the vaccine is felt there has been an expected increase in the proportion of hospitalisations that are from younger age groups – as older age groups who are most at risk from serious consequences from the virus have increased protection as a result of vaccination.

“A higher proportion of recent hospital admissions in younger age groups might mean that fewer of the people being admitted to hospital are becoming seriously ill or requiring intensive care.  

“The vaccination programme is helping to weaken the link between new cases, and serious health harms.  For example, the proportion of people who get Covid, who now require hospital treatment, fell from around 13% in January, to 3% in mid-to-late June. It appears that Covid patients, on average, are spending less time in hospital.”