The UK governments top scientists has revealed that 16 and 17-year-olds won’t need parental consent to get the covid vaccines.
The news comes as 1.4million teenagers are about to be urged to get a Pfizer covid jab ‘as soon as possible’
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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have also hinted that children as young as 12 could also be offered Pfizer jabs later this year.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is urging families to listen to the advice from No10’s top scientists even though their latest recommendations mark a dramatic U-turn on guidance the body issued two weeks ago.
The Mail Online reports: Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the NHS would dish out invites ‘as soon as possible’, with the goal of getting the oldest teenagers protected before they return to classrooms in September.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said there was ‘no time to waste’ and that there was ‘plentiful’ supply of the vaccines.
He also laid the groundwork for ministers to expand the inoculation drive to all over-12s in the near future, saying that the JCVI would ‘continually review’ the evidence.
There are currently no concrete plans to offer the 16 and 17 year olds second doses, with the expert panel wanting to buy more time to understand the safety risks.
Pfizer’s vaccine has been linked to a rare side effect called myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle. Data from the US, which has been giving the jab to children for months, shows the complication affects one in 100,000 teenage boys after the first dose, but this rises to about one in 15,000 after the second dose.
Boris Johnson today called on families to listen to the advice, saying that the committee was ‘among the best in the world’ and that the country should ‘take our lead from them’.
Unveiling the inoculation drive expansion in a Downing Street briefing today, Professor Van-Tam said: ‘Children are going to start going back to colleges and sixths forms from September, and in Scotland that will be slightly earlier, so there is no time to waste in getting on with this.
‘The NHS has been kept informed of what is being deliberated for JCVI, it has been preparing for multiple options for very many weeks now and I would expect this programme will start in a very short number of weeks.’
Experts are divided over the hugely controversial topic of vaccinating children, given their tiny risk of dying or falling seriously ill.
Many experts welcomed the move to vaccinate people in younger age groups as ‘sensible’ and ‘another piece of the jigsaw for the UK to return to some kind of normality’.
More than eight in ten Britons also support the move, polling suggests, including more than 50 per cent of people who strongly support offering jabs to the younger age groups.
But others attacked it for being ‘too little, too late’ because younger people cannot be double-jabbed before the autumn term. A group of 18 top scientists called for vaccines to be rolled out to over-12s immediately, demanding the UK falls in line with Israel and the US.
Some scientists have, however, called the plans into question saying it was ‘pointless’ to vaccinate the age group because they are at such low risk from the virus and most already have immunity from previous infection. Office of National Statistics figures suggest up to 60 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds already have antibodies against Covid to fight off the virus.
The JCVI, which advises No10, last month ruled only over-12s with serious underlying health conditions or who live with a vulnerable adult should get jabs.
The panel, made up of the country’s top experts, warned the ‘minimal health benefits’ did not outweigh the risks to justify vaccinating all children. At the time, it stated that only under 18s with learning disabilities or chronic health conditions should be eligible.
Officials are keen to push the immunisation drive on to more youngsters in order to prevent an autumn surge in infections when they return to schools in September.
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