England's 12-15-year-olds in England could soon be offered a coronavirus vaccine, with the NHS now preparing for the next stage of the rollout.
The NHS has been told to prepare for the possible rollout of jabs for the youngsters from September 6, according to the Telegraph, with trusts reportedly being told they must have plans ready by 4pm on Friday.
Asked about the reports, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said "the NHS is always planning and always working up every single scenario and it's quite right that they do that".
But he refused to confirm the youngsters would be offered the vaccine, instead saying the government would await advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
He also rubbished reports that the school students would not require parental consent before being jabbed.
He told ITV News: "Parental consent will always be sought. If JVCI do reach a decision that children should be able to receive a vaccine, parental consent would always be asked before they receive that vaccine."
He added: "It would be reassuring for parents to have that choice as to whether children would be able to have that vaccine but it always has to be based upon parental consent."
A spokesperson for the department said: “No decisions have been made on vaccinating 12-15 year olds and it is inaccurate to suggest otherwise.
“Ministers have not yet received further advice from the JCVI on this cohort. We continue to plan for a range of scenarios to ensure we are prepared for all eventualities.”
Currently, vaccines are only being offered to everyone aged 16 and above, and at-risk children aged 12-15.
Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the vaccine should be given to 12- to 15-year-olds as the Delta variant is "flying through schools".
She said vaccine advisers are being “very cautious” and warned that “waiting and watching costs time”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Either you’re going to be exposed to Covid without any protection or you can be exposed and have a vaccine.
“And we should be offering teens that vaccine so they have that protection before going back into schools."
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She added: “It’s an emergency situation and we have Delta, which is so infectious. I mean, it’s just flying through schools as we know.
“But not just here, Germany, Denmark, even places like New Zealand and Australia are struggling with Delta compared to the original virus.”
Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney said the reopening of schools had contributed to a rise in cases in the country.
In England, secondary school pupils are being urged to get tested ahead of the return of schools at the beginning of September.
Department for Education guidance states that secondary school and college pupils in England should be tested twice on-site on their return, with lateral flow tests carried out between three and five days apart. Pupils should then test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when the policy will be reviewed.
The government is launching a campaign to persuade parents, secondary school and college students to take part in voluntary asymptomatic Covid-19 testing.
The campaign is being supported by 18-year-old gold medallist swimmer Matthew Richards and TV doctor Dr Ranj Singh.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I have every confidence that school and college staff, parents and students will continue to work together admirably, following pragmatic measures like testing and vaccinations to minimise disruption and keep children where they belong – in the classroom.”
More than half a million 16 and 17-year-olds have had their first dose of a Covid jab, NHS England said.
Revellers at the Reading and Leeds festivals this weekend are also being offered a vaccine dose at pop-up clinics.
In Wales, all 16 and 17-year-olds have been offered the vaccine and clinically vulnerable 12 to 15-year-olds will be offered vaccines before the school term starts.