A person receives a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination centre for those aged 18 and over at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain, June 20, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The government will soon start offering a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine to all 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation (JCVI) on Wednesday (August 4).

The updated guidance means around 1.4 million teenagers will be eligible for vaccination, which would start within weeks.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said, “Today’s advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation 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 committee will advise on the timing of the second dose on a later date.

Until now, children over 12 are able to get a Covid shot if they have certain health conditions, live with others who are at a high risk or are nearing their 18th birthday.

Currently, in the UK, only Pfizer-BioNTech is approved for those under-18 years.

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

“Those aged 12 to 15 with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as people in this age group who are household contacts of individuals who are immunosuppressed, are already eligible for vaccination. JCVI will continue to review data and provide updates on at risk groups aged 12 to 15 and whether any additional groups will be added,” Javid said.

“Covid-19 vaccines have saved more than 60,000 lives and prevented 22 million infections in England alone. They are building a wall of defence against the virus and are the best way to protect people from serious illness. I encourage everyone who is eligible to come forward for both their jabs as quickly as possible,” he added.

Prof Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the Covid part of the JCVI, said the change in advice wasn’t just for the benefits to wider society.

“Vaccination of children and young people can bring benefits to other people, such as adults and including parents and grandparents but, at the forefront, is the health and the benefits to children and young people themselves,” he said.

Eluned Morgan, Welsh Government minister for health and social services welcomed the JCVI’s advice, saying, “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.”

“We are already inviting young people who are within three months of their 18th birthday, in line with JCVI advice,” Morgan said.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said, “This is good news and a step forward that I’ve been hoping for. I also hope evidence will allow JCVI to recommend vaccine for wider groups of young people in future – but in meantime Scottish government will get on with offering it to all 16/17 yr olds ASAP.”

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