Minister Confirms Decision “Imminent” On Whether To Vaccinate All Teenagers 16 And Over
The decision on whether to extend the vaccination programme to all over-16s is expected "imminently" according to a minister (Alamy)
The decision on whether to start offering coronavirus jabs to every child aged 16 and over is expected “imminently”, according to universities minister Michelle Donelan.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is set to make an announcement on whether millions more teenagers can get a jab in a bid to build up the UK’s immunity to Covid-19.
So far only those children who are at much higher risk of getting ill if they catch the disease are being offered the jab, or who live with other vulnerable people, as well as some who are about to turn 18.
Two weeks ago the JCVI ruled against routine vaccination of the over-12s due to the risk of side effects, but is believed to be ready to update its advice as data shows much of the cure wave of infection comes from the unvaccinated.
Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said she expected news “literally in the next day or so” on rolling out the coronavirus vaccine to more teenagers.
Speaking to Sky News this morning Donelan was asked why the government was going ahead with jabbing all 16 and 17-year-olds. She replied: "We haven't announced that, what we're doing is waiting for the JCVI announcement, at every stage throughout the pandemic we've adopted their advice on this.
“They are the experts of course when we're determining the vaccine rollout and we'll await their imminent announcement shortly."
She added: "We are awaiting the feedback from the JCVI and then we will update accordingly, so we haven't actually had a change of heart, there's been no policy announcement, we're awaiting that JCVI announcement which we're expecting imminently, and then we'll make an announcement.”
The UK’s decision to stick to just vaccinating the adult population is at odds with much of the rest of the world, with most western countries extending their programme to the over-12s.
Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London and co-author of the React study, told LBC: "There's actually kind of proof to say from 13 upwards, and eventually if that could be prioritised that would also reduce transmission.
"What we should probably think about is September, October, November: how much immunity can we have in order to hopefully keep prevalence going down, or if prevalence does start to go up a little bit for it to be as slowly as possible, so there is justification in extending those vaccinations down.”
News that younger people will be able to have coronavirus jabs was welcomed by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who told the BBC's Today programme many children would follow their parents' example and get vaccinated.
"Anything that gives the reassurance to young people that they are being treated in the way that the adult population is and that their education won't be disrupted to the extent it has been - that has to be welcomed," he said.
"I'm sure many parents, with their youngsters, will think 'at last' we're starting to give a real sense of priority to young people's education.
"I think that generally... young people feel they've been let down educationally.
"If this is one way we can get rid of that disruption I think we will see a great sense of a lot of young people, not all, but a lot of young people thinking 'actually I'm going to have the vaccine, just like my mum or my dad has'."
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