Covid: 16 and 17-year-olds to be offered vaccine with no parental consent needed

4 August 2021, 21:03

By Sophie Barnett

All 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK will be offered a first coronavirus jab in the coming weeks and will not need the consent of their parents to get a vaccine, government advisors have announced.

Ministers have accepted the recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the NHS is making preparations to start giving first doses to around 1.4 million children.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the JCVI, said: “In the UK a person who is 16 years or above is deemed able to consent for themselves.”

He added that the benefits of the coronavirus vaccine outweigh the risks.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid accepted the JCVI recommendation and has asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate 16 and 17-year-olds "as soon as possible".

He 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.

Pupils queuing to take a lateral flow test at Archway School in Stroud in Gloucestershire.
Pupils queuing to take a lateral flow test at Archway School in Stroud in Gloucestershire. Picture: Alamy

"The JCVI have not recommended vaccinating under-16s without underlying health conditions but will keep its position under review based on the latest data."

Wales’ Health Minister, Eluned Morgan says "We are now working with the NHS on the arrangements needed to offer the vaccination to all 16 and 17 year olds in line with the JCVI advice.”

The JCVI confirmed that vaccination experts are yet to set out a timeline for when youngsters should get their second dose, and will make further recommendations in the coming weeks.

Read more: Sister tells of heartbreak after brother, 42, died of covid because “he didn’t want vaccine in his body”

Read more: Covid infection rates three times lower for double jabbed people – study

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, officials close to the programme said.

The child or young person's consent is considered the most appropriate consent, even if a parent disagrees.

It is understood that vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds is not being ruled out, but the JCVI want to look at more information first.

Experts have been constantly reviewing the data on vaccines for children, who will receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The JCVI said that a number of factors have been considered but the most important element was the risk/benefit of vaccination.

Read more: Around 94 per cent of adults in England likely to have Covid-19 antibodies, says ONS

Read more: Virologist says 'right thing' would be to offer Covid jab to age 12 and up

Before coming to the conclusion, the JCVI said it considered potential adverse reactions following vaccination, the frequency and severity of severe Covid in children and young people, the occurrence of long Covid in children and the mental health and educational impacts of Covid, among other factors.

Experts chose to reconsider vaccinating young people following a surge in cases, increased data on vaccine safety and the success of the rollout here in the UK.

Before coming to the conclusion, the JCVI said it considered potential adverse reactions following vaccination, the frequency and severity of severe Covid in children and young people, the occurrence of long Covid in children and the mental health and educational impacts of Covid, among other factors.

This story is being updated