When will under 18s get the Covid vaccine? How will the jab be rolled out for children?

4 August 2021, 11:02

As it stands, jabs only offered to over-12s with certain underlying conditions or who live with others who are at high risk.
As it stands, jabs only offered to over-12s with certain underlying conditions or who live with others who are at high risk. Picture: Alamy
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Why are young people getting the Covid jab and why are some 12 year-olds already getting vaccinated?

On Wednesday morning a government minister told LBC an announcement on opening up the vaccination programme to 16 and 17-year-olds is expected "imminently."

But aren't some children already getting the jab? What will this mean for everyone else? Here are your questions answered on what we know so far.

What are the latest changes?

It is understood that 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.

Which children can currently get the vaccine?

Across the nation 223,755 under-18s have received a first dose and almost 80,000 have had a second dose, according to NHS data to July 25.

At present a number of under-18s are eligible for the jab if they have certain health conditions, live with someone who is immunocompromised, or are approaching their 18th birthday.

Virologist says we should vaccinate from age 12 and up

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.

Virologist Dr Chris Smith said it was a "mistake" not to go "even younger with our offer of the vaccine," as he explained the more people who are vaccinated then the fewer people there are who can pass the infection on.

The expert told Tom Swarbrick this move would help to protect the educations of younger people.

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.

Will children need parental consent?

Possibly. already some vaccine clinics have started giving jabs to 16-year-olds - provided that they attend the appointment with a parent or guardian.

Other countries which are offering vaccine to children require parental consent.

This will be set out when ministers make a decision on the extension of the programme.

JCVI advice on Covid jabs for U18s "imminent"

What about timings?

It has been reported that appointments could open in around a fortnight. But if ministers want to see a tangible effect when schools return in around a month's time, then appointments could open sooner.

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.

Others 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.

What is the official line?

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We continue to keep the vaccination of children and young people under review and will be guided by the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation."

But universities minister Michelle Donelan told LBC ministers were expecting an announcement from the JCVI "imminently".

I don't 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 18-29-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.