The Covid vaccination programme is set to be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds.
But is it not the case that some children are already getting the jab? And what will this mean for everyone else?
Here are your questions answered on what we know so far.
– What are the latest changes?
The Covid-19 vaccine programme is to be extended to include 16 and 17-year-olds – the first time the jab will be routinely offered to children in the UK.
There are around 1.4 million people in this age bracket.
– Are jabs for 16-year-olds safe?
Yes. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 12 and over. The medicines regulator will only approve a medicine for use when it has seen evidence on its safety and efficacy.
The jab is already being widely used in children in other countries around the world and the regulator continues to review data.
– Where might children get vaccines?
Probably at the vaccine clinics which are up and running such as GP surgeries and pharmacies.
Pop-up vaccine clinics have been appearing at popular spots for young people – including Thorpe Park and Latitude Festival – so in theory this would continue.
An extension to the UK approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech #COVID19 vaccine allowing its use in 12- to 15-year-olds has been authorised by the MHRA following a rigorous review of the safety, quality & effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group.
— MHRAgovuk (@MHRAgovuk) June 4, 2021
– Will children need parental consent?
No, children aged 16 and over can make a decision for themselves.
If a child can understand the risks and benefits of the medical treatment then they can give consent without their parent’s say-so.
– What about timings?
Health officials want the programme to begin as soon as possible, it as expected jabs will be routinely available within weeks.
– What has been said previously about children getting vaccinated?
There has been debate about offering vaccines to children, with some experts saying children should be able to get the jab to prevent further disruption to schooling. According to Government figures a record 1.13 million children in England were out of school for Covid-19 related reasons towards the end of term.
It could also in theory reduce transmission which should dampen levels of infection in the population.
Others have suggested that vaccinating children would, in large, not be for their own benefit – because it is rare for children to be seriously ill from Covid-19. This could create a moral grey area, as children would be given a vaccine, which can have side effects, for the benefit of others.
Some have said that it would be morally ambiguous to give the vaccine to children when there are serious gaps in vaccine equity around the globe. Some high-profile people – such as Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, who is part of the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – have spoken out against vaccinating children ahead of some of the most vulnerable people in other parts of the world.
– I do not know any 16 or 17-year-olds, what does this mean for me?
Scientists have said that opening the vaccine programme to younger groups could help stem the tide of infections – which are largely being driven by younger groups.
The more people who are vaccinated, the less infection is around, so it is less likely you will become infected yourself or have plans disrupted due to illness or isolation.
– But will 16 and 17-year-olds take up the jab offer?
Even though the vaccine programme has been open to all those 18 and over for some time now, there are still around 2.8 million 18 to 29-year-olds who are completely unvaccinated.
Officials have started incentive schemes to encourage people to take up the jab offer.
It remains to be seen what proportion of younger teenagers take up the offer.
– What jab will they be given?
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine approved for use in the UK for people aged 12 and over, this will be the jab offered to older teenagers when the programme commences.