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Covid-19 vaccinations for 16 and 17-year-olds: All you need to know

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Covid-19 vaccinations will be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK - and they will not need parental consent.

Ministers have accepted a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to extend the roll-out of the vaccines, which so far have been available only to those over 18. It comes after the JCVI reviewed the latest data.

The move is designed to reduce infection levels and disruption to schooling.

With more details to be announced in the coming weeks, here is what we know so far.

A Covid-19 jab
A Covid-19 jab

When will the doses be given and what vaccine will it be?

The NHS is now making preparations to begin giving doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to around 1.4 million young people aged 16 and 17. Expect these to start in the coming weeks.

So far, there is no recommendation on the timeline for second doses for this age group - that is expected in the next few weeks.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI, said: 'We will provide another update of advice regarding the exact details of the second dose.”

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved in the UK for people aged 12 and over.

What about parental consent?

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’ approval

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

Profr Wei Shen Lim said: “In the UK a person who is 16 years and above is deemed able to consent for themselves and if they are competent and able to consent for themselves, then that consent holds.”

Why is this age group being offered the jabs?

Extending the vaccination programme is designed to help reduce infection rates and transmission of the virus as well as curb disruption to schooling.

Experts have been constantly reviewing the data on vaccines for children, bearing in mind that it is very rare for young people to die or have very severe cases of Covid-19.

Information which had led them to reconsider the position on vaccinating children aged 16 and 17 included the recent surge of infections, more data on the safety of the vaccines and the excellent progress of the adult vaccination programme.

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases. Graphic: PA
Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases. Graphic: PA

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

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.

In Cambridgeshire, as elsewhere, those aged 15 to 29 have been the most likely to be infected in recent weeks, with older age groups benefitting from the earlier access they had to the vaccination roll-out.

Where will the jabs be given?

That has not been confirmed, but it is likely that the jabs will continue to be offered in community settings as they are now. You can see the full list of daily walk-in vaccination clinics currently operating in Cambridgeshire here.

What about the safety of Covid-19 jabs for young people and any potential side effects?

Experts from the JCVI as well as those from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) constantly review safety reports of the vaccine, from both the UK and abroad.

They said they considered reports of heart inflammation among some younger adults who had the jab, but officials said that this was considered to be “extremely rare”, affecting around one in 100,000 people vaccinated. And the effects are “mild” with a short recovery period.

Children who have had the vaccine in clinical trials and real world data suggest that some get short-lived side effects after inoculation, including fever, sore arm, headache and tiredness.

What about younger children?

It is understood that the government has not ruled out vaccinations for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds but want to look at more information first.

At present, children over the age of 12 are only eligible for a vaccine if they have certain medical conditions which put them at risk from Covid-19 or teenagers who live with people who are immunocompromised.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said: “We have asked the JCVI to continue to review that list on an ongoing basis and my sense is that it is more likely rather than less likely that that risk will broaden over time as data becomes available.”

Which countries have been vaccinating children?

Israel has approved vaccinations for children aged over five.

In the US, a third of those aged 12-15 have had one dose, and a quarter have already received two doses

France, Spain, Hungary and Germany are vaccinating over-12s.

Many other countries, including Italy, Austria, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Lithuania, Estonia and Canada are expected to start vaccinating younger people soon.

Adults who have received Covid-19 vaccine. Graphic: PA
Adults who have received Covid-19 vaccine. Graphic: PA

Read more

Complete list of all walk-in Covid-19 vaccination sites in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough for August 2021

Covid-19 in Cambridgeshire: The complete picture for every area as three deaths are recorded but case numbers fall

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