Writing for The Guardian, Professor Devi Sridhar criticised the position in the UK of letting “teenagers get on with it and see what happens once they’re infected”.
Criticising the approach in England, where all major legal Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, the chair of global public health and Edinburgh University said such a move would result in an “uncontrolled epidemic” among younger age groups.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation announced last week it was approving the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to teenagers with underlying conditions, but fell short of recommending a blanket rollout.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith responded by writing to the group to ask the decision was kept under “close and ongoing review”.
Nicola Sturgeon urged the JCVI not to rule out vaccinating all younger teenagers and is set to remove all but a handful of Covid-19 restrictions on August 9, leaving Scottish teenagers in almost an identical situation to English teenagers as they return to school.
Prof Sridhar highlighted concerns being raised in the USA around long Covid and the risks of exposing children to a new virus, highlighting arguments that it is a “major risk that should be avoided”.
She said: “I struggle to understand how a disease considered risky to adolescents in the US can be considered innocuous in Britain.
"The alternative of letting the virus spread among young people seems reckless. England is alone in doing this. It is acting as a laboratory for other countries, which are watching to see what happens before they decide on their own policies towards children.
"The UK government’s comparatively relaxed attitude may also create a petri dish for Covid variants. The consequence could be a new variant that makes our current vaccines less effective, or has more severe outcomes for unvaccinated children.”
Just one teenager aged between 14 and 19 and three aged 14 or under have died with Covid-19, according to official statistics.
However it is not known how many may be suffering from long Covid, or what the long-term impact of Covid-19 is on those infected.