Minister refuses to say if parent consent will be needed for teen jabs

Minister says announcement on Government’s plan to vaccinate 1.5million 16- to 17-year-olds is ‘imminent’ – but refuses to be drawn on whether parental consent will be required

  • Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday that she expected new advice from Britain’s Covid experts imminently
  • JCVI says some children with underlying conditions should get jabs but broad rollout not yet recommended
  • Ms Sturgeon told a Scottish parliament session updated advice may be provided ‘literally in the next day or so’

A minister has been refused to be drawn on whether parental consent will be required for the Government’s plans to vaccinate 1.5million 16- to 17-year-olds against Covid in the coming weeks.

Health chiefs are expected to perform a U-turn later today when the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announces millions of teenagers should receive a jab. 

Current guidance only allows over-12s who are particularly vulnerable to Covid or living with a vulnerable adult to be given a Pfizer vaccine.

But ministers are keen to push the immunisation drive on to more children in order to prevent an autumn surge in infections when they return to schools.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said ministers were expecting an ‘imminent’ announcement from the JCVI on rolling out jabs to more teenagers.

Asked whether parents would be consulted on whether they wanted their children to receive a vaccine, Ms Donelan said she would not ‘preempt’ the announcement.

Speaking on Sky News this morning, she said: ‘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.’

Experts have slammed the plans to extend the rollout to teens who are ‘at low risk of serious disease’ and are building up natural immunity through exposure to the virus.

Professor David Livermore, an expert in infectious disease at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline limited vaccine supplies would be better used vaccinating the elderly in countries where rollouts are behind the UK’s.

Maisie Ayres, aged 18, receives a Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at an NHS Vaccination Clinic at Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium in north London last month

Top graph: Data from June 24 to July 12 (red bars), gathered by Imperial researchers as part of the REACT study, shows that infection rates were highest in five to 24-year-olds. Half of all Covid infections were in this group, despite them making up just 25 per cent of the population. Nine times more children aged 13 to 17 tested positive in the most recent testing window compared to rates from May 20 to June 7 (yellow bars). Bottom graph: Figures also show that infection rates were highest in London, where 0.94 per cent tested positive by July 12, up from just 0.13 per cent in the previous study period

Graph shows the proportion of people in each age group who had received one Covid jab (light blue) and who were fully immunised (dark blue)

Covid is very rarely severe or fatal in children.

Just one in 500,000 under-18s are at risk of dying from the virus, researchers at leading UK universities found this month. 

That means any vaccine given to youngsters has to be very safe because the risk-harm benefit from them catching the virus is so low.

The fact that older people have a higher chance of being hospitalised or dying from the virus outweighs the side effects the vaccine could have on them.

But as children are less affected from the virus, some side effects could be riskier to them than the virus itself.

Since the vaccine rollout has been expanded to children in countries including the US and Israel, there have been reports of an extremely rare reported cases of myocarditis and pericarditis.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, while pericarditis is when the protective layer around the heart gets inflamed.

There are no specific causes of the conditions but they are usually triggered by a virus.

The UK is expected to wait for more data from clinical trials and other countries immunising children before making a decision to offer all youngster the jab.

The US, Israel and France are already giving the vaccine to over-12s. 

In addition to safety concerns, children’s bodies and immune systems behave differently, meaning they might have different treatment needs.

Youngsters may need different doses or needle sizes depending on their height, weight and age – which is why most children are only vaccinated after safety has been well-documented in the adult population. 

It comes as:

  • Ministers get set to axe the controversial ‘amber-plus’ list, meaning holidays to Spain are back on for thousands of British sunseekers;  
  • Boris Johnson snubbed Nicola Sturgeon‘s offer to meet her when he visits Scotland this week; 
  • The Scottish government offers to pay people £50,000 to set up homes, families and businesses on its most remote and beautiful islands;
  • UK’s daily Covid cases fell to another five-week low of 21,691 in just a 7 per cent drop on last week – as hospital admissions dip by 15 per cent;
  • Study finds Covid survivors who were hooked up to a ventilator in hospital lost up to seven IQ points;
  • Nicola Sturgeon is accused of ‘clinging on to large parts of people’s lives’ by keeping lockdown laws on masks and mass events ‘indefinitely’;
  • British tourists queue for two hours to get through passport control after three hours of Covid admin to board flight at Malaga.

Asked why the Government has had a change of heart on moving the rollout on to children this morning, Ms Donelan said: ‘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.

‘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.’

Some experts have described the Government’s decision to extend the rollout to teenagers as ‘pretty pointless’

Professor Livermore told MailOnline: ‘Sixteen to 17-year-olds are at low risk of serious disease and, through exposure, are developing immunity anyway. 

‘We do not know if vaccine-induced or infection-induced immunity will prove the longer lasting, and to the better contributor to herd immunity. 

‘Given this I can see no good reason to prioritise vaccinating them.

‘Limited vaccine supplies would be far better used in countries and regions with large vulnerable elderly populations who presently remain unvaccinated — Australia, much of South East Asia and Latin America, as well as Africa.’ 

But others claim the evidence suggests vaccinating children would have beneficial ‘knock on effects’ on the adult population. 

Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London and co-author of the React study which has been tracking infection in the population, said that the latest results from the study would ‘support’ extending the vaccination programme to 16 and 17-year-olds. 

Data from the study also revealed that two doses of a vaccine are 49 per cent effective at preventing asymptomatic infection, a marked decline compared to other estimates. But the protection offered by the vaccines rises to 59 per cent against symptomatic cases, researchers said

Positive PCR test samples taken as part of the REACT study closely follow the waves of the pandemic

The graph shows the proportion of positive Covid swabs taken as part of the REACT trial that sequencing identified as the Delta variant

The graph shows the Ct value in infected people aged 18 to 64 who had not been vaccinated (red line) compared to double jabbed Brits (blue line).  Each graph shows that those not protected against Covid had lower Ct levels, which are associated with higher amounts of the virus in their test sample and is usually linked with a more severe infection


Vaccine regulators are set to give the green light to jabs for 16 and 17-year-olds in the coming days, Nicola Sturgeon (left) said on Tuesday. Boris Johnson (right) is expected to give the green light to jabs for 16 and 17-year-olds

PM snubs Sturgeon invite to discuss Covid recovery in Edinburgh 

Boris Johnson has snubbed an invitation from Nicola Sturgeon to meet during his visit to Scotland this week.

The Scottish First Minister had invited Mr Johnson to meet at her official Edinburgh residence, Bute House, to discuss the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the Prime Minister has replied to Ms Sturgeon in a letter – posted on Twitter by a Sky News journalist – instead aiming to focus on wider discussions at a later point.

In his letter, the Prime Minister said: ‘As I noted when we last met, I am keen to arrange an in-person meeting with you and the other first ministers and deputy first minister to build on the constructive discussions we had earlier this summer.

‘We agreed then that we should establish a structured forum for ongoing engagement between the Government and the devolved administrations to deliver tangible outcomes in the interest of people throughout the UK.

‘There is much for us to discuss as all parts of the UK work together on our shared priority of recovering from the pandemic.

‘I understand our officials have made good progress on the details of this since we last spoke.’

Mr Johnson added: ‘I am particularly keen that we work closely together on the vaccination booster campaign this autumn which will be crucial as we continue to tackle the pandemic.

‘The UK Government has procured millions of vaccines for the entire United Kingdom and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government as we roll out booster jabs in line with JCVI’s advice.

‘The UK Government is working closely with the devolved Scottish Government on a variety of different issues.

‘I know that you have been meeting regularly with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, but I look forward to meeting with you soon and working together in the interests of people in all parts of our country.’

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged in her own letter on Monday she and Mr Johnson ‘differ politically’, but stressed the Scottish and UK governments must ‘work together where we can’.

It comes after she confirmed most of Scotland’s remaining coronavirus restrictions are to be scrapped from Monday – which she hailed as ‘perhaps the most significant date so far’ in the pandemic.

From August 9, Scotland will move ‘beyond Level 0’ with the removal of most restrictions such as physical distancing and the size of social gatherings. 

He told LBC: ‘Our data would support that in that we’d expect there to be a really good knock-on effect from extending the vaccinations for that group.’

The study found a ‘lot of transmission’ among secondary school-aged children, he added.

The Pfizer vaccine is approved for children aged 12-and-over and Professor Riley added: ‘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.

‘But we have to balance against the other needs for the vaccine as well.’

Whitehall sources pointed to polling suggesting a large majority of parents support the vaccination of children.

Jabs could be administered in schools but Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to push for GP surgeries and NHS hubs to be used.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs yesterday: ‘I am hoping, possibly veering towards expecting, updated advice from the JCVI literally in the next day or so.’

A major government-funded study found that vaccinating all over-12s could ‘substantially reduce transmission potential in the autumn when levels of social mixing increase.’

Run by Imperial College London, the React Study found the summer wave had been driven by infections among youngsters aged 12 to 24. It said vaccinating children could have ‘knock on benefits across the whole population’.

Because Covid poses little direct risk to children, scientists have been nervous about recommending vaccination if there is even the tiniest risk of negative side effects.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said in June that safety would always be the paramount factor. But he said policy makers also had to consider the ‘wider question around the effects on children’s education’.

More than 1.1million children were forced to stay at home in the last week of the summer term because of outbreaks in schools.

Ministers are also concerned that, with some countries demanding proof of vaccination for all over-12s, families could find their travel options limited.

The offer of a Covid jab was extended to all over-18s in mid-June. But, to the frustration of ministers, three million under-30s have yet to take it up.

The React study, which is based on random testing of nearly 100,000 people, found that half of all infections are in those aged five to 24 despite them only making up one in four of the population.

It warned that the rampant spread of the virus in the young means the recent decline in cases could reverse when schools reopen in September.

The study concluded that vaccinating more children could ‘substantially reduce transmission’ and have ‘knock on bene – fits across the whole population’.

Ms Sturgeon added: ‘I very much hope that that expectation will prove to be the case. I am hoping, but this is the JCVI’s advice, that they will recommend further vaccination of people in the 12 to 18-year-old age group.

‘But I’m particularly hopeful that we will see some updated recommendations in relation, as a priority as the first part of this, for 16 and 17-year-olds.’

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘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.’ 

A spokesperson for the department of health and social care (DHSC) said it continues to keep jabs for children under review and will be guided by the JCVI’s advice.  

Vaccinator Suzanne Pozzo gives a vaccine to Omar Khalifa in a pop up tent at a drop in clinic outside Stenhousemuir Football Ground after Scotland moved to Level 0 of the country’s five-tier coronavirus restrictions system

The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said some children with underlying health conditions should get jabs, but so far has not recommended a broader rollout of shots to under-18s

The devolved Scottish government has control over its health policy, but the JCVI gives advice for the United Kingdom’s four nations on the rollout of vaccines

Festival goers at Feile an Phobail queuing to receive their first vaccination. The west Belfast festival launched an initiative with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust that will see free tickets given to the Feile’s dance night to the first 500 people who turn up to the pop-up vaccine clinic at the Falls Park Bowling Pavilion

Britain’s daily Covid cases fall to a five-week low: UK records 21,952 positive tests in 12% weekly drop – as deaths jump to 24

Britain’s daily Covid cases today fell to a five-week low, with just 21,952 positive tests recorded across the nation.

Department of Health figures show the number of infections is 12 per cent down on last week, as the third wave continues to slow.

Meanwhile, deaths – which lag several weeks behind cases – continued to rise. Another 24 victims were posted today, compared to 14 last Monday.

The most recent data on hospital admissions shows 911 people were admitted last Tuesday, down from 926 seven days earlier. 

Covid cases are lower today than they have been since June 29, according to the official figures released today.

But the number of virus tests conducted also fell to their lowest levels since June 26, suggesting there are cases that have not been picked up. 

The new figures follow data published on Friday, which suggested cases are still on the rise and as many as one in 65 people in England are currently infected.

Some experts think fewer people are coming forward for Covid tests to avoid isolation.

The figures also signal a slow in the week-on-week drop in infections, with cases dropping by 12 per cent on seven days earlier.

Last Monday, cases had dropped by 37.5 per cent compared to the previous week.

Meanwhile, there were just 24 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid tests were recorded, down from 65 yesterday, but an increase of 71.4 per cent compared to last Monday.

Covid death figures released on Monday often lag, due to a delay in recording deaths over the weekend.

It comes after Ms Sturgeon was yesterday accused of ‘clinging on to large parts of people’s lives’ as she revealed lockdown will officially end next week – but some laws will remain in place indefinitely.

The First Minister confirmed Scotland would exit Level 0, ending social distancing and limits in the size of social gatherings, on August 9.

But she said it was too early to declare freedom from Covid as she confirmed face coverings will still be required by law indoors and large events with capacities of more than 2,000 inside and 5,000 outside will have to gain special permission to take place. 

Schoolchildren will also have to wear mask in lessons and socially distance in schools for six weeks from September.

But in a move that will heap pressure on Boris Johnson amid the English ‘pingdemic’, self-isolation requirements will be dropped if someone passes a PCR test from Monday, a week before the quarantine requirement ends in England.

Announcing that face coverings would remain mandatory the First Minister said it was ‘premature’ to suggest the pandemic had been beaten.

She also raised the spectre of some restrictions returning in winter, saying she could not rule it out.

But Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross accused her of ‘moving the goalposts’ by keeping masks and other measures in place.

‘There are some welcome steps in the right direction but these ongoing restrictions will hold Scotland back,’ he said.

‘We are beyond Level 0, at Level -1 or -2 and still the Government is clinging on to large parts of people’s lives.’

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has snubbed an invitation from Ms Sturgeon to meet during his visit to Scotland this week.

The First Minister had invited Mr Johnson to meet at her official Edinburgh residence, Bute House, to discuss the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the Prime Minister has replied to Ms Sturgeon in a letter – posted on Twitter by a Sky News journalist – instead aiming to focus on wider discussions at a later point.

In his letter, the Prime Minister said: ‘As I noted when we last met, I am keen to arrange an in-person meeting with you and the other first ministers and deputy first minister to build on the constructive discussions we had earlier this summer.

‘We agreed then that we should establish a structured forum for ongoing engagement between the Government and the devolved administrations to deliver tangible outcomes in the interest of people throughout the UK.

‘There is much for us to discuss as all parts of the UK work together on our shared priority of recovering from the pandemic.

‘I understand our officials have made good progress on the details of this since we last spoke.’

Mr Johnson added: ‘I am particularly keen that we work closely together on the vaccination booster campaign this autumn which will be crucial as we continue to tackle the pandemic.

‘The UK Government has procured millions of vaccines for the entire United Kingdom and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government as we roll out booster jabs in line with JCVI’s advice.

‘The UK Government is working closely with the devolved Scottish Government on a variety of different issues.

‘I know that you have been meeting regularly with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, but I look forward to meeting with you soon and working together in the interests of people in all parts of our country.’ 

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