ALEX Salmond’s party have called on the Scottish Government to extend the country’s Covid vaccination programme to school children.

The move follows calls by the head of the Education Institute for Scotland for pupils over 12s to be offered the jag - a measure also supported by a number of leading scientists and doctors.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said earlier this week high school pupils should have the opportunity to be vaccinated to protect themselves and teachers from falling ill and to help minimise disruption to teaching.

READ MORE: Global health expert calls for vaccine for all Scottish high school pupils

There are fears that the coming weeks will see a spike in coronavirus infections as the country moves to the lowest level of restrictions - Level 0 - on Monday.

Deputy first minister John Swinney government said on Tuesday modelling has indicated Scotland could see up to 10,500 new cases a day.

Boris Johnson's government has announced that all restrictions - including the compulsory use of face masks on public transport and in shops are to be lifted in England from Monday.

Chris McEleny, General Secretary of Alba, said: "Boris Johnson’s government are embarking on what can only be described as a Covid surrender strategy. Thankfully in Scotland we are taking a much firmer line on face masks but that’s broadly where divergence ends. 

"By the World Health Organisations own definition, the virus is out of control in Scotland. Only yesterday we recorded the highest amount of Covid deaths in the country since March. 

"But despite being in this situation, in the whole most of society will open back up on Monday. The Scottish Government’s own modelling shows that this could result in 10,000 new cases a day. That will create a perfect storm over the coming weeks in the run up to schools returning. 

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: EIS chief urges Nicola Sturgeon to offer Covid jag to pupils

"If unvaccinated children return to schools across Scotland whilst the virus is out of control to that scale then the spread of the virus, and the resulting isolation requirements will have a catastrophic impact on public services. Operations will be cancelled, bins will stop getting collected and policing levels will drop to dangerous levels. 

"To avoid this disaster, The Scottish Government must ramp up its vaccination programme to ensure that at the very least all of Scotland’s high school population are offered their first jag before schools return in August.” 

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. In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford said children could be offered the Covid vaccine "later this year".

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.

However several members of the JCVI have already spoken out publicly against vaccinating children as a priority including Professor Andrew Pollard, of Oxford University, who said in May it felt “morally wrong” to vaccinate children in the UK ahead of people in poorer countries in other parts of the world.

READ MORE: Glasgow's Hydro to stop vaccination drop-ins from Sunday

Professor Anthony Costello, a former WHO director, is among the doctors who back over 12s being offered the jag.

He spoke out after one study found that over 12 months some 5800 children were admitted to hospital across UK with the virus and about 250 required intensive care. It also found there were 690 children admitted for a rare inflammatory condition linked to Covid, called paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS-TS).

Costello said the paper reported there had been 61 deaths in positive cases among children of which 25 are due to Covid. The paper concluded the risks to children are very low. However, he said those findings made him come to a different conclusion.

“My conclusion is if you add these data to the unknown risks of Long Covid and the risks of transmission by children to older members of their household is the opposite. And as MRHA have approved the vaccine it seems odd for JCVI to withhold its availability to parents who want their children vaccinated,” he said.

Supporters of offering the jag to children also point out that children - who can pass the virus around more easily to others around them as 'super spreaders' - are vaccinated against the flu as a vital part of protecting themselves as well as the whole population.

The National:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (above) welcomed the approval of the Pfizer vaccine to over 12s at the start of June, saying it made her “heart sing”.

She was asked at her briefing on Thursday last week if she had plans to vaccinate this age group amid scientists’ concerns over the consequences of not doing so.

She replied: “I put great store on issues like vaccination on following the clinical advice ... From a non-clinical perspective, I don’t take the view that we should blithely let kids or young people get infected and not care about the consequences.”

She added: “I suppose from a non-clinical perspective I want to see this vaccine reach as far as possible. And as long as the risk-benefit ratio is right then if it is possible to do then I want to see young people get the opportunity for vaccination as well because I want to see young people protected as much as possible but I need to see the clinical advice as to whether that is the clinically appropriate thing to do. And I hope we have that advice sooner rather than later.”