The Covid vaccine booster programme and jabs for 12- to 15-year-olds could be given the go-ahead within days, Sajid Javid has said, as he confirmed that young people will have the right to overrule their parents on whether to be vaccinated.
The health secretary said he expected to hear from the UK’s four chief medical officers in the coming days on their views as to whether there should be a mass rollout of vaccines to 12- to 15-year-olds.
Javid told Sky News: “I want to give them the breathing space, it’s their independent view and that’s exactly what it should be. But I would expect to hear from them in the next few days.”
He said consent would be sought from parents of 12- to 15-year-olds as it has been “for decades”, but if children and their parents cannot agree, then the child’s view would take precedence as long as they are competent enough to decide.
He said: “If there is a difference of opinion between the child and the parent then we have specialists that work in this area, the schools vaccination service. They would usually literally sit down with the parent and the child, and try to reach some kind of consensus.
“If ultimately that doesn’t work, as along as we believe that the child is competent enough to make this decision then the child will prevail.”
The decision on whether children aged 12-15 should be offered a Covid vaccine is being taken by the chief medical officers, after government advisers on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided against backing the move on health grounds alone, since Covid-19 presents such a low risk to that age bracket.
The advisers said that while the health gains from vaccinating the entire age group were greater than the risks, “the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12- to 15-year-olds at this time”.
However, they said their remit did not consider wider issues such as disruption to schools, which is being considered by the chief medical officers.
Javid also said he was “very confident” that the UK would have a booster programme so that older adults could receive a third jab, with advice expected in the next few days from the JCVI.
He told Sky News: “In terms of who actually gets it and when, we’re waiting for final advice which could come across, certainly, in the next few days from the JCVI.”
He said the advice was expected to include information on whether people should get different vaccines to the ones they have already had or the same ones, and added: “I’m confident that we can start the booster programme this month.”