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Action is needed as the number of children admitted to hospital with Covid-19 is rising, Scottish Labour has said.

Research from the party suggests hospital admissions for under-18s reached their highest level since the start of the pandemic in June.

For children aged between two and four, there was an average of 4.7 weekly admissions between June 10 and June 30.

For those between five and 11, there were 6.7 weekly admissions, while there were 5.7 for children aged between 12 and 17.

Scottish Labour says the vaccination programme should be sped up, with the eight-week wait between doses reduced.

The party’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “These are incredibly worrying trends which show clearly that the health and wellbeing of the young people of Scotland is on the line.

“With more five to 11-year-olds with Covid being hospitalised than ever before, we simply have no time to lose.

“Covid-19 may not affect children as severely but young people with underlying health conditions will be at increased risk if case levels are high.

“The SNP has lost control of the pandemic and the health secretary’s eye is off the ball.

“We need the vaccination programme to be drastically sped up, with the time between first and second doses cut to four weeks to slow down the transmission of the virus.

“The children of Scotland cannot be placed at risk through inaction – I urge the government to act and act now.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have one of the fastest vaccination programmes in the world and are vaccinating people across Scotland as fast as supplies allow.

“We have been warning for some time about the continued risk of the virus spreading among all age groups – and the rising numbers in recent weeks show why we need to continue adopting a cautious, evidence-based approach to relaxing restrictions.

“We are providing the vaccine to people on a priority basis as set out by the independent expert clinicians and scientists on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

“JCVI advice on the gap between first and second doses is clear that eight weeks is optimal – and that reducing that below eight weeks would compromise the effectiveness of the vaccine and how long that effect lasts.

“Unless new evidence or information leads the JCVI to recommend a shorter interval, Scotland will continue to schedule appointments with the eight-week minimum dose interval. Any suggestion we should reduce the gap between first and second doses directly contradicts the current JCVI advice.

“In addition, current JCVI advice does not cover vaccination in those under 18-years-old except among certain groups.

“The JCVI is currently reviewing vaccinations for under-18s – we will continue to engage with them, and with vaccine developers – and will take their advice into consideration.”

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