Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his “priority” is to start rolling out coronavirus booster vaccines to the older generations.
Mr Johnson appeared to be suggesting that an announcement regarding a booster jab launch might finally be near – with the statement that “we will proceed with it,” reported The mirror.
It comes even though a booster roll-out has not yet been approved by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI).
The Prime Minister also appeared to suggest that refreshment compared to the first doses would be a “priority” for children aged 12-15 years, which is also being delayed due to the JCVI process.
When asked if experts should “hurry up a bit” with over 12s jabs and boosters, Mr. Johnson replied, “I think you are absolutely right that the priorities now are on the older generation heading into the fall and winter goes.
We have always said there will be a booster program this month in September and we are continuing.
“What I would also say is that 16, 17 year olds are eligible, they have been approved, they are a very important group for a potential transmission and I want to urge all 16, 17 year olds….
“Yes, 88% of all 16+ in this country have had one vaccination, 78% have had two vaccinations, it’s a huge success for the program, but there are still some who need this protection, and me just ask everyone who hasn’t yet had one, get that. “
It comes as officials announced that around half a million British people with compromised immune systems will be given a third dose of the vaccine – although this is not a “booster” introduction.
There is increasing pressure on experts to make a decision about booster and vaccines for children aged 12-15, as currently only vulnerable adolescents can be vaccinated.
NHS England had been instructed to prepare for a booster vaccination from September 6th.
However, both rollouts will not begin until the JCVI, which is combing through complex data, gives the green light.
Gavin Williamson today increased pressure on the JCVI to give the go-ahead for the vaccine as millions of children are returning to school.
The Minister of Education told the BBC: “I think parents would find it deeply comforting to have the choice of whether or not to give their children a vaccine.
“We are of course waiting for the JCVI’s decision. Probably many of us are very excited and very much hope that we will be able to introduce vaccinations for people under the age of 16.
“I would certainly hope it’s a decision that will be made very, very soon.”
He said he could not provide a timetable for when the decision would be expected as the JCVI was an independent body. “You will make a decision, I was told and I will understand very, very soon,” he said.
JCVI vice chairman Professor Anthony Harnden said the idea was being “very actively examined”.
He added, “There are many, many arguments for and against giving vaccines to 12-15 year olds and we are pondering what we, as the committee, think are best for children.
Prof. Peter Openshaw, a member of the Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats (Nervtag) that advises the government, said he would “applaud” the JCVI for being so “meticulous” in waiting for studies before boosting it advises.
But he added, “If we wait for everything to be reported before making a judgment, we may have passed the time when we should have made a decision.”
However, Prof. Saul Faust, director of the clinical research facility at the National Institute for Health Research in Southampton and lead investigator of the Cov Boost study, said he understood the JCVI’s “desire and need to collect more evidence” before offering advice gives.
“I think they don’t hesitate at all. They just say that they would like to evaluate more data and they want to be sure that the benefits are significant for children, not just society.”
There are concerns about a huge spike in coronavirus cases as schools return after the summer vacation.
A “substantial increase” in cases is expected in the UK, but it is too early to say whether that could mean that the easing of restrictions needs to be lifted, said lead expert Prof. Neil Ferguson.
He warned that there will be “significant health system demands” when the daily cases start to exceed 100,000 to 150,000.
All 16- and 17-year-olds are offered a vaccine, but under 16s only qualify if they belong to certain groups – such as those at risk or those who live with adults who are at risk of developing a serious illness .
Almost two-thirds of 16 and 17 year olds in Wales received a first dose, while the NHS England said more than 620,000 in that age group have been vaccinated now, less than a month after they were approved.
You can find more stories from where you live at Near you.