The Covid-19 vaccination programme is set to be rollout out to more than one million 16 and 17-year-olds under new advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
It is expected that ministers will on Wednesday (4 August) approve JCVI advice which recommends that healthy teenagers over the age of 16 will be offered the chance to get a coronavirus jab.
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What is the existing guidance for under 18s?
Under existing guidance, people aged 16 to 17 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious Covid infection should have already been offered a jab.
Children aged 12 to 15 with certain conditions which make them vulnerable to coronavirus can also access the vaccine, along with those aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person, such as a parent or grandparent.
If the vaccine is approved for 16 and 17-year-olds without any health conditions, more than one million more teenagers will be eligible to get a jab.
What effect will it have?
Latest data from the React study, tracking Covid-19 in the population, showed that younger people had driven a recent surge in infections in England.
Scientists have said that by extending the vaccine programme, it will help to reduce transmission and limit the spread of the virus in winter months.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) which advises the Government, said: “JCVI are right to continue to monitor safety data from UK studies and from other countries, balancing risks and benefits of vaccination vs natural infection at different ages.
“Vaccination of teenagers may have a major effect on the return of Covid next winter, assuming that the rates will drop this summer.
“Full vaccination takes time, so the sooner we start, the sooner this age group will be protected.”
When will appointments be available?
It has been reported that appointments could be rolled to youngsters within a fortnight due to the reserves of the jab available.
It is expected that teens will be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to the Daily Telegraph, in line with the guidance currently in place for other young adults.
On Tuesday (3 August), Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hinted that a decision on the vaccine rollout was imminent and told the Scottish Parliament: “We are waiting on JCVI advice. When I say ‘we’, I am obviously referring to the Scottish Government, but the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments are in the same position.”
“First, as a priority, I am particularly hopeful that we will see updated recommendations for 16 and 17-year-olds.
“I am hoping for – possibly veering towards expecting – updated advice from the JCVI in the next day or so.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth added: “With the JCVI apparently about to give the green light to vaccinating 16-year-olds, ministers need to ensure plans are in place to roll out this vital next stage of vaccination while ensuring parents have all the facts and information they need.”