Covid jabs expected to be approved for 16 and 17-year-olds
The coronavirus vaccination programme looks set to be rolled out to more than a million more teenagers with new advice expected for 16 and 17-year-olds.
It is expected that ministers will on Wednesday approve advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which recommends healthy teenagers aged over 16, who have not yet been able to get their vaccine, be offered the chance to be immunised.
Under existing guidance, young 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, as can those aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person, such as a parent or grandparent.
But The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, and The Times all reported that this would now be extended to all 16 and 17-year-olds, of which there are around 1.4 million in the UK according to the Office for National Statistics.
The Times reported that appointments could be available within a fortnight due to the reserves of the vaccine available, while The Daily Telegraph said they would be given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, to match the guidance for other young adults.
On Tuesday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had hinted that a decision was imminent.
Ms Sturgeon 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.”
She said: “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 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.”
Ms Sturgeon also outlined how laws on the wearing of face masks would stay in place when many of Scotland’s other remaining coronavirus restrictions are lifted on August 9.
She said the requirement to wear masks will remain for “some time to come”.
But close contacts of those who test positive for Covid will no longer be required to automatically self-isolate for 10 days under the new Scottish system.
A double-vaccinated Scot who has at least two weeks since their last dose, will be able to take a PCR test that would allow them to abandon self-isolation if they test negative.
Similar changes will also be brought in for Wales on Monday, but England will have to wait another week – until August 16 – for self-isolation rules to ease.
Meanwhile, updated guidance on travel is also expected in coming days.
Reports suggested that a number of countries including Germany and Austria were due to be added to the green list of travel restrictions, while Spain would avoid the red list – the most stringent measures.
The idea of an “amber watchlist” for countries at risk of being moved into the red category has been ditched on Monday following ministerial infighting, Tory backbench opposition and criticism from the travel industry.
And Whitehall sources blamed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for the fiasco, while Labour accused the Government of being responsible for “reckless U-turns and confusion”.
On Tuesday, it emerged the head of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) – which advises on the travel rules – had quietly left her post without a successor being appointed.