Vaccines could be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds as JCVI guidance set to be updated 'in a day or so'

A member of the public receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the Turbine Hall at a temporary Covid-19 vaccine centre at the Tate Modern in central London (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s expected that the Covid-19 vaccination programme will soon be updated to include offering jabs to 16 and 17 year olds.

Under existing guidance, some children aged 12 to 17 have been eligible for the jab if they have underlying health conditions, but the new advice is expected to roll out vaccinations for all 16 and 17 year olds.

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When could 16 and 17 year olds be offered the vaccine?

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that she was “veering towards expecting” the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) would soon outline updated guidance for young people having the Covid-19 jab.

Speaking to MSPs on Tuesday (3 August), Sturgeon suggested that the decision could come within days.

She said: “We are waiting on JCVI advice. When I say “we”, I am obviously referring to the Scottish Government, but the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments are in the same position.”

Sturgeon said that the four chief medical officers across the UK had written to the JCVI asking them to look again at vaccination advice for young people.

She said: “First, as a priority, I am particularly hopeful that we will see updated recommendations for 16 and 17 year olds.

“I am hoping for - possibly veering towards expecting - updated advice from the JCVI in the next day or so.”

What are the current rules regarding children and vaccines?

Currently, the JCVI advises that children “at increased risk of serious Covid-19 disease are offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine”.

This includes children aged 12 to 16 with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe disabilities.

The advice adds: “The JCVI also recommends that children and young people aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person should be offered the vaccine.

“This is to indirectly protect their immunosuppressed household contacts, who are at higher risk of serious disease from Covid-19 and may not generate a full immune response to vaccination.”

Under the current advice, young people aged 16 to 17 with underlying health conditions should be offered vaccination, but “the JCVI is not currently advising routine vaccination of children outside of these groups, based on current evidence”.

What’s been said about the possible change?

Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: "With the JCVI apparently about to give the green light to vaccinating 16-year-olds, ministers need to ensure plans are in place to roll out this vital next stage of vaccination while ensuring parents have all the facts and information they need."

A Department of Health 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."

It has been reported that the JCVI will update its advice to extend vaccinations to all 16 and 17 year olds on Wednesday (4 August). It is believed that teens will be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, in line with the guidance for other young adults.