Half of young teenagers in Scotland have now received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, new figures show.
The milestone comes as a new campaign gets under way in England to boost take-up among 12-15 year-olds, where only around one in five has been jabbed.
An estimated 50.2% of young teens in Scotland had received a first dose as of October 21, Government figures show.
In some local areas the figure is as high as nearly two-thirds, with take-up of 66.0% in Aberdeenshire and 63.8% in Perth & Kinross.
By contrast, take-up in England among 12-15 year-olds currently stands at just 18.9%.
Only seven out of 149 upper local authority areas in England have given a jab to at least a third of young teenagers, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
Take-up is highest in Wokingham in Berkshire (43.2%), followed by Oxfordshire (35.5%) and Warrington (35.4%).
There are 24 areas where take-up is still below 10%, with the London boroughs of Barking & Dagenham (5.4%), Newham (6.2%) and Waltham Forest (6.4%) at the bottom of the list.
Vaccines have been available to 12-15 year-olds in Scotland since September 20, and are being delivered mostly at drop-in clinics and other community settings.
The rollout in England also began on September 20, but so far has been delivered mostly in schools.
This is now changing, however, with parents able to book vaccinations online at local sites for their 12-15 year-old children from the end of Friday.
Dr Nikki Kanani, deputy lead for the NHS England vaccine rollout, said: “As we head in to October half term, the vaccination programme is opening up vaccine centres to young people aged 12 to 15 as another way to get their vaccine.
“If they have already received their vaccine or been invited through their school then they do not need to do anything.
“I would urge families to look at the information together and then book in to give children and their loved ones crucial protection ahead of winter.”
The change follows calls from headteachers’ unions for more jabs to be delivered at locations outside schools.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the rollout of vaccines has been “painfully slow” in some areas and has been “beset by logistical problems, not to mention being disrupted by the irresponsible actions of anti-vaccination protesters”.
He added: “The announcement from NHS England that young people can attend vaccination drop-in centres during the half-term holiday is a big help and we hope they will do so in sufficient numbers to help slow the spread of the virus in schools and colleges.”
Take-up in England is also likely to have been affected by the level of infection circulating in the community.
A first dose of vaccine cannot be delivered to someone if they are within four weeks of testing positive for Covid-19, waiting for the results of a coronavirus test, or self-isolating.
Around 7.8% of children in England in school years seven to 11 were likely to have tested positive for Covid-19 in the week to October 16, the highest rate for any age group, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics.
But while the overall prevalence of Covid-19 in England has risen to around one in 55 people in private households, near levels seen at the peak of the second wave of the virus, in Scotland the estimate has been falling for several weeks and currently stands at one in 90.
Our latest results from the #COVID19 Infection Survey show increasing infection rates in England in the week ending 16 October 2021.
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) October 22, 2021
Meanwhile nearly a third (32.5%) of 12 to 15-year-olds in Wales had received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine as of October 21, according to Public Health Wales.
Figures for local take-up are available up to October 17 and show that Neath Port Talbot is the only area in Wales where fewer than 10% of young teenagers have received one dose (8.2%).
All other local authorities are now above 10%, ranging from Denbighshire (17.9%) to Rhondda Cynon Taf (54.0%).
NHS Wales began offering a first dose of vaccine to 12-15-year-olds from October 4.
Most vaccines are being given at vaccination centres with a small number being delivered in schools.
In Northern Ireland, 12 to 15-year-olds are being offered the vaccine in schools but no figures have yet been published on the level of take-up.