All children aged 16 and 17 and vulnerable groups of 12-15 year olds are to be called in for vaccinations throughout this month.
NHS Shetland’s interim director of public health Susan Laidlaw outlined changes to the vaccination programme for children in a media briefing on Friday.
The younger group of children will only be called in if they are vulnerable, such as those with severe learning disabilities, neurological conditions or immunosuppression.
Those living with people in high risk groups will also be asked to take the vaccine.
Dr Laidlaw said the vaccinations would be organised through child health teams and would not involve the mass vaccination clinics used for older groups.
Vulnerable children aged 16 and 17 had already been included in the vaccination programme – but following changes in advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) , healthy children in that group will also be asked to take the vaccine.
NHS Shetland is currently collating lists of eligible children from GP lists, with clinics expected to be held later this month.
Dr Laidlaw said new side effects had been identified for younger children, involving inflammation of the heart.
While acknowledging it may sound “alarming” she said the effects and generally been “very mild” and not problematic.
Dr Laidlaw said the JCVI had weighed up the risks of the vaccine for these groups of children and found they were outweighed by those of Covid.
She also noted “long Covid” was still a concern and could affect people of all ages.
People aged 16 and 17 will be able to make their own decision on whether to take the vaccine, though Dr Laidlaw said it was strongly advised.
“It’s not just about people getting seriously ill and ending up in intensive care, it’s also about protecting the whole population,” she said.
“It is for the individual to chose and we do want people to read the information and understand there are risk and benefits for anything.
“But any risks of this vaccine are vastly outweighed by the risk of Covid so the vaccine is a good choice.”
For now, healthy 16 and 17-year-olds will just be offered one dose, while further decisions are taken on if and when to offer a second.
This is because the side effects have tended to arise after second doses.
The JCVI has yet to advise on whether healthy 12-15s will be invited for the vaccine.
Dr Laidlaw said it was being closely monitored and she expected it may well happen.
Meanwhile, the health board is also planning a booster programme for the high risk adult groups who were the very first to receive their jabs.
Dr Laidlaw said it was expected to begin by late September or early October and may tie in with the regular flu vaccination programme.
The health board is awaiting further details on which form of vaccine would be given for the booster programme.