MANY young people want to be offered the choice to have a coronavirus vaccine, a health official said, as the jabs rollout was extended to older teenagers.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said they had heard from groups of people who claimed they “definitely” want a jab.
He added that he does not believe there is a “fear of the vaccine” or any lack of confidence, but that it is also “entirely reasonable” for people to choose not to have it.
Asked if they had any evidence of enthusiasm among 16 and 17-year-olds, he told the Downing Street briefing: “We’ve wanted to hear from children and young people themselves as to what they think and a lot of the feedback we’ve had is that they (young people) would like to have the choice.
“So, they’d like to be offered the vaccine, understand the risks and potential benefits, and therefore make a choice for themselves whether they want to have it or not.
“We’ve certainly heard from groups of people who say they definitely want to have the vaccine.
“I don’t think there is, if you will, a fear of the vaccine or any lack of confidence, but as you can imagine, there will be people who choose not to have the vaccine, and that is entirely reasonable as well for them if they want not to have the vaccine, then that is their choice as well.”
People in the new age groups for the rollout can decide to have the vaccine without parental consent.
Officials close to the programme said that under current UK guidance, if a child is able to understand the risks and benefits of any medical treatment then they can legally give consent without their parents’ say-so.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam said he would be “very much in favour” of his two youngest children being vaccinated if they were aged 16 or 17.
Speaking at the briefing, he said: “I have one child who is an adult (and) I have two children who are younger than 16 and 17.
“However, I would be very much in favour based upon the adjudication of JCVI if they were 16 or 17 for them to be vaccinated initially with that first dose, as JCVI has said.”
He said all the eligible adults in his family have had their Covid jabs, and added: “I’m a strong believer that these vaccines are safe and effective.
“I’m a strong believer that they are changing how we can learn to live in a much more normal way with Covid-19 for the foreseeable future.”