Scotland, Wales to offer COVID vaccine to all children 5-11

Scotland's government confirmed Wednesday that it will offer a coronavirus vaccine to all 5 to 11-year-old children, and Wales is doing the same after accepting draft advice from scientists.

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said officials have taken advice from the U.K.'s vaccination advisory committee, although the committee's recommendation hasn't been officially published yet. Sturgeon's statement came a day after Wales announced a similar plan to immunize younger children against COVID-19.

Sturgeon said officials have begun talking to health authorities about the best way of delivering the vaccines to children.

Scotland and Wales are so far the only two parts of the U.K. that have said they will offer vaccines to the entire 5 to 11 age group. England and Northern Ireland currently offer shots to children under 11 who have medical conditions that mean they are at serious risk of complications from the coronavirus.

Around 85% of the over-12 population in the U.K. has been fully vaccinated, but the country has lagged behind the United States and European countries such as France and Italy in vaccinating children.

New coronavirus infections have fallen in many parts of the U.K., although the number of cases by age group remained the highest among schoolchildren. The official statistics agency reported Wednesday that around 1 in 13 or 7.6% of children ages 2 to 11 were likely to have had COVID-19 last week.

The four parts of the U.K. have moved at differing paces in administering vaccines and imposing coronavirus restrictions.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline his government’s long-term strategy for “living with COVID” on Feb. 21.

Johnson said last week that all remaining domestic restrictions in England, including the legal requirement for infected individuals to self-isolate, could be lifted within weeks.

England has already scrapped most restrictive measures, such as mandatory face masks and vaccine passports for entering nightclubs and large events. Northern Ireland has lifted all legal restrictions.

Scotland has taken a more cautious approach. Face coverings still are required in indoor public spaces, and nightclubs check vaccine passports.

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