The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said all older teenagers would not need parental consent to get inoculated
Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
Coronavirus vaccines will be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds as ministers seek to halt the spread of the virus and prevent further schools chaos.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said older teenagers should get inoculated in a move that will see an additional 1.4 million young people eligible for the jab.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid accepted the JCVI recommendation and has asked the NHS to prepare to start giving first doses to youngsters “as soon as possible”.
Young people will not need the consent of their parents to get a vaccine.
Officials close to the programme said if a child is able to understand the risks and benefits of any medical treatment then they can legally give consent without their parents’ approval.
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
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The move marks a shift from the decision last month to only vaccinate children over the age of 12 with certain health conditions or youngsters who live with someone who is immunocompromised.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 and over.
The Pfizer jab is being used in children in other countries at present.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, said: “After carefully considering the latest data, we advise that healthy 16- to 17-year-olds are offered a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Advice on when to offer the second vaccine dose will come later.
“While COVID-19 is typically mild or asymptomatic in most young people, it can be very unpleasant for some and for this particular age group, we expect one dose of the vaccine to provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation.”
He told a Downing Street press conference that vaccinating younger people could also have knock-on benefits for older relatives who are more vulnerable to the virus.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam said he expected the rollout to start “in a very short number of weeks”.
He said there was a “plentiful supply” of jabs for the extended rollout.
The timeline for second doses has not been set out yet, with further recommendations to come within weeks.
Prof Shen Lim said recommendations against inoculating healthy children aged between 12 and 15-years-old remain unchanged.
But it is understood that officials are not ruling out jabs for this age group without underlying health conditions.
MHRA boss Dr June Raine said experts had “rigorously reviewed” trials in children and young people before coming to the decision.
“All of this shows (the vaccine) is effective in the same way as we see in adults aged 16 to 25,” she said.
“This meant that the vaccine could be approved for use in young people aged 12 to 15 years.
“The safety data and adolescence was comparable to that we’ve seen in young adults and no new adverse events were identified.
“As in young adults, the safety profile showed mild to moderate reactions in line with the way the vaccine works, perhaps of temperature, sore arm, headache – that kind of thing.”
Boris Johnson urged families to listen to the advice to get their children vaccinated.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Scotland, he said: “I think it’s very important that everybody in politics listens first to the clinicians and to the medical experts.
“I would just urge all families thinking about this across the country to listen to the JCVI, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and immunisation.
“They are extremely expert there, they’re amongst the best if not the best in the world, they know what’s safe and I think we should listen to them and take our lead from them.”
Mr Javid welcomed the advice which meant more young people aged 16 and over can benefit from vaccines.
“I have accepted their expert recommendations and I have asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate those eligible as soon as possible.
“The JCVI have not recommended vaccinating under-16s without underlying health conditions but will keep its position under review based on the latest data.”
The move comes after the PM was said to be alarmed by the sluggish take-up among 18 to 29-year-olds.