All healthy 16 and 17 year olds to be offered first Covid vaccine, government confirms

What has prompted the change in advice for teenagers and when will jabs be put in arms, ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan explains

All healthy 16 and 17 year olds in the UK are now eligible for a coronavirus vaccination and will soon be offered to book an appointment, the government has confirmed.

Ministers accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which said evidence shows the benefits of vaccinating 16 and 17 year olds far outweigh the risks.

A specific date has not yet been set for when appointments will become available, however the rollout is unlikely to begin this week and may not next week either, it is understood.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the government's deputy chief medical officer, said he expects the rollout to begin in a "very short number of weeks".

He suggested all 16 and 17 year olds could be offered a jab by Christmas.

The NHS is said to be considering the logistics of this stage of the vaccination programme, with schools or colleges not being ruled out as possible settings.

Some young people are already eligible for a vaccine - 12 to 15 year olds at increased risk to Covid-19 and over 12s living with an immunosuppressed adult - leaving 1.4 million 16 and 17 year olds waiting for the jab.

While they'll be offered their first jab, it is not clear how long they'll need to wait for the second.

Why has the JCVI's advice changed?

The JVCI wants time to assess data from first doses before setting out how long the delay should be before the second.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said: "While Covid-19 is typically mild or asymptomatic in most young people, it can be very unpleasant for some and for this particular age group, we expect one dose of the vaccine to provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation."

The advice for other young people has not changed - no under 12s should be offered a vaccine.

Despite a Pfizer trial on 2,000 12 to 15 year olds finding the vaccine to be safe in that age group, the JVCI wants to assess data from the latest rollout before advising for younger ages.

'This is absolutely the right thing to do for all 16 and 17 year olds': Health Secretary Sajid Javid backs the move

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this is "absolutely the right thing" for 16 and 17 year olds.

Asked what assurances he could give parents, he said: "The reassurance that we can give actually comes directly from the clinicians themselves.

“So they’ve held a press conference today as well, where we’ve heard from the deputy chief medical officer, the head of the JCVI, and Dr June Rayne the head of the MHRA, our independent medicines regulator, and they are all at one on this - that this is absolutely the right thing to do for all 16 and 17 year olds.

“Of course, there’s no compulsion in this, like all our vaccination offer it’s something for people to consider and decide if it’s something they want to do.

“But we want to make sure that all the best information is available and that we are doing all we can together to build this wall of defence that already has meant, for example, that there are 16,000 fewer people in the UK that have died from this horrid virus and also some 22 million infections have been prevented all because of our vaccination programme.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the JVCI's advice and said the government would follow it.

He said: "I would just urge all families thinking about this across the country to listen to the JCVI, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and immunisation.

"They are extremely expert there, they're amongst the best if not the best in the world, they know what's safe and I think we should listen to them and take our lead from them."

Watch the JVCI press conference:

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those hoping younger people would be recommended for the vaccine, not just 16 and 7 year olds.

"If it's safe and if the benefits outweigh the risks for young people I would like to see vaccination extended as far as possible to give younger people the same protection that people like me and you have from vaccination."

But she said news that 16 and 17 year olds will be given the vaccine is "a very positive step forward".

Coronavirus: What you need to know

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.

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.