Covid vaccines to be offered to 16 and 17-year olds
Sixteen and 17-year olds are to be offered a first coronavirus jab in the coming weeks.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that the vaccine rollout should be extended to include 16 and 17-year-olds after reviewing the latest data.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid says the Government has accepted the JCVI recommendation and has asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate around 1.4 million teenagers "as soon as possible".
Prof Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19, chairman for the JCV, said: "After carefully considering the latest data, we advise that healthy 16 to 17-year-olds are offered a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
"Advice on when to offer the second vaccine dose will come later.”
He added: "While Covid-19 is typically mild or asymptomatic in most young people, it can be very unpleasant for some and for this particular age group, we expect one dose of the vaccine to provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation."
It has also been announced that the rollout will start as soon as possible and teenagers will not need the consent of their parents to get a vaccine.
Officials close to the programme said that under current UK guidance, if a child is able to understand the risks and benefits of any medical treatment then they can legally give consent without their parents' say-so.
At present, children over the age of 12 are only eligible for a Covid vaccine if they have certain medical conditions which put them at particular risk from Covid-19 or teenagers who live with people who have compromised immune systems.
No decision hads yet been made on vaccinating younger children.
Mr Javid said in a statement: "Today's advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) means more young people aged 16 and over can benefit from Covid-19 vaccines.
"I have accepted their expert recommendations and I have asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate those eligible as soon as possible.
"The JCVI have not recommended vaccinating under-16s without underlying health conditions but will keep its position under review based on the latest data."
The JCVI said that a number of factors have been considered but the most important element was the risk/benefit of vaccination.