Young people in Ayrshire with certain conditions are to be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine before schools return later this month.

The vaccine will be offered to children and young people affected by severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s syndrome, underlying conditions resulting in immunosuppression, and those who have a diagnosis of Learning/Intellectual disability, in line with the latest advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Children and young people aged 12 and over who are household contacts of persons (adults or children) who are immunosuppressed are also being invited to come forward, to provide indirect protection for that member of their household. A household contact is defined as someone living in the same house, or anyone the person comes in to contact with face-to-face on most days of the week, such as a carer.

Young people aged 16 to 17 years who are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 had already been invited for vaccination, as recommended by the JCVI previously.

NHS Ayrshire & Arran will now be inviting those who’ve recently turned 16 who were not vaccinated as part of that earlier offer.

NHS Ayrshire & Arran Public Health Director Lynne McNiven said: “We are contacting parents and carers of children and young people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection aged 12 and over to offer a COVID-19 vaccination. We aim to have the majority of first dose vaccinations complete before the children and young people return to school.

“Invitations will be extended by letter, phone or through their regular healthcare professional. The vaccine will be administered in the most appropriate setting depending on the child or young person’s care or health needs. That may be in their own house, in a care setting, or at a clinic.

“Those aged 12 and over who are household contacts of someone who is immunosuppressed, or who have regular face to face contact with someone who is, will receive a national letter.

“There is no need for anyone in these groups to do anything, we will be in contact to provide information on the clinic locations providing this service.

“We would urge those now eligible to get the vaccine to provide the best protection against coronavirus.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The programme has always offered vaccine to groups where the benefits far outweigh the risks. The research and evidence shows that is the case for young people in these key vulnerable groups and they should now be called forward for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I would urge any parent or carer who has a child or young person eligible for a vaccine to visit NHS Inform where they can find the most up-to-date information; and read the leaflet that they will receive with their letter or from their Health Board. Parents, carers or young people can also speak to their local health professional to discuss this further if they need to.”