A Government minister today refused to be drawn on whether parental consent will be required for the No10’s impending plan to vaccinate 1.5million teenagers against Covid.
Health chiefs are now set to recommend all 16 and 17 year olds get jabs, marking a dramatic U-turn — given just two weeks ago the same expert panel advised against doing so.
Boris Johnson is expected to accept the guidance immediately, paving the way for the roll-out to begin later this month. Jabs could be administered in schools.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (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. It adopted a ‘precautionary approach’ because of a rare link between the jab and cases of heart conditions called myocarditis and pericarditis.
But 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.
Under-18s wanting the jab would have to provide proof of parental consent, Whitehall sources claimed last night as details of the move began to leak after Nicola Sturgeon hinted at the change.
However, universities minister Michelle Donelan would not confirm that would be the case when quizzed about the move this morning, merely saying advice from the JCVI was ‘imminent’.
Asked whether parents would be consulted on whether they wanted their children to receive a vaccine, she told Sky News she would not ‘preempt’ the announcement.
Ms Donelan: ‘As a representative of the Government I am waiting for the JCVI update on this which could be today but it is very imminent. As I have already said I am not going to preempt a policy announcement.’
Questions are now being asked as to what has prompted the sudden change in advice from the panel, which just two weeks ago said it was ‘not currently advising routine vaccination of children’.
Sources close to the JCVI, according to The Times, warned of political attempts to ‘bounce’ the group into making the decision. But other insiders claimed the decision was based on fresh evidence that makes the case for jabbing all over-16s, suggesting the risk of myocarditis among teenagers may be lower than feared.
Ms Donelan insisted the decision was ‘not based on political pressure’.
She also claimed the Government was considering ‘all options for incentivising’ younger people to get the Covid vaccine, with ministers hoping to encourage hesitant youngsters into centres with the promise of cut-price taxis and takeaways. Cash bribes have also not been ruled out.
Experts today slammed the plan to extend the roll-out to teenagers who are ‘at low risk of serious disease’ and are building up natural immunity through exposure to the virus.
Professor David Livermore, an infectious disease researcher at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline limited vaccine supplies would be better used vaccinating the elderly in countries which are lagging massively behind the UK.