Vaccinating teens a priority for boosting society's Covid immunity, senior scientific adviser says

Kevin Mckeon, 14, receives his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from vaccinator Geraldine Flynn at the Citywest vaccination centre in Dublin. Vaccinations of children and teenagers is underway across Ireland, with more than 23 percent of those aged 12 to 15 registered to receive the jab. Picture date: Saturday August 14, 2021. Damien Storan/PA

Vaccinating teenagers should be a priority for increasing the population's immunity to coronavirus, a senior scientific adviser has said.Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, spoke as the UK’s chief medical officers draw up advice on whether those aged 12 to 15 should be jabbedThe scientist, from Imperial College London, said experts were seeing “slow increases in case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths” in the UK.

He told BBC Radio 4 that, in the absence of social distancing measures, “we are reliant on immunity building up in the population”.


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He added: “That happens two ways – one through vaccination and one through people getting infected and so the faster we can roll our additional vaccination, the better in terms of stopping people getting severely ill but also in reducing transmission.” He said the UK had been leading Europe in vaccinations until recently, but other countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Ireland “have got higher vaccination levels than us and that’s largely because they have rolled out vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds faster than us."

The UK’s chief medical officers (CMOs) are currently discussing whether 12 to 15-year-olds should be vaccinated after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the margin of benefit for healthy children was too small to say they should receive a jab.

Professor Neil Ferguson

Advice from the four CMOs has been sought at the request of Health Secretary Sajid Javid and his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, the Observer reported that jabs for this age group would begin on September 22.

Professor Neil Ferguson said that while vaccinating teenagers was important, he was supportive of booster jabs for a wider population.

Evidence from Israel suggests they “really are very effective at further driving down transmission and infection”, he said.

The government had 100 doses on order. Credit: PA

Asked whether a further lockdown could be ruled out, he said “I hope so” but added that “you can’t rule out anything completely.” Professor Ferguson said he was pleased to see things like the ability to ask people to work from home could be retained in the government’s forthcoming winter plan for tackling Covid-19. He also suggested there could be a small effect from ditching Covid passports on the spread of the virus “but it won’t be huge”.