Mandatory Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination is not something the UK government would “ever consider,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
His comments came as protesters took to the streets across Europe to protest stricter restrictions amid a surge in infections.
Austria has announced plans to make vaccinations compulsory as the country struggles with lower vaccine intake.
Only two-thirds of their population have been vaccinated so far, and the government said vaccinations will be mandatory from February 1.
Mr Javid said the UK is “fortunate” to be less hesitant about vaccines than other countries.
On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “It is up to Austria and other countries to decide what to do. We are fortunate that in this country, although we are hesitant to vaccinate, we are much lower than in other places. “
He added, “I just think on a practical level, taking a vaccine should be a positive choice. It should be something, if people are a little reluctant we should work with them and encourage them.
“With regard to mandatory vaccines for the general population, I don’t think we would ever consider that.”
In England, the deadline for full vaccination of nursing home workers was 11 November.
The government has stated that the frontline NHS and remaining social care workers who work at registered providers must have both doses of vaccine by April 1.
Meanwhile, Mr Javid said the current focus of the vaccine program is on booster shots – which have been expanded to include those aged 40 and over – and second shots for 16- and 17-year-olds.
He said the Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee (JCVI) is considering the possibility of a refresher for all adults, a consideration included in an update last week.
It stated, “Future considerations include the need for a booster (third dose) for 18-39 year olds who are not at risk and whether an additional booster (fourth dose) might be needed for more at-risk adult groups.”
Following a report that coronavirus vaccinations could be given to children under the age of 12 for the next year, Mr Javid said it was “inappropriate” to comment on such a move at this point.
Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are only approved in the UK for children aged 12 and over, but the Sun newspaper reported leaked proposals showing health bosses are preparing to stab children between the ages of five and eleven next spring.
When asked if vaccines would go a step too far for this age group, Mr. Javid told Times Radio, “It doesn’t suit me to say I think it would be inappropriate. I really want to make sure that we get the best expert advice on all of the decisions we make about vaccines. “
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said that when asked about coronavirus vaccines for the youngest children, “quite a lot of immunity is being built” in younger age groups.
He told the Andrew Marr Show, “We see that there have been a lot of transmissions in younger children as well as teenagers, so we’ve built quite a lot of immunity from infection in those age groups.”
The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has said that “expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness” must be met before vaccines can be approved for children ages 5-11.
If the MHRA were to extend the license for younger children, the government would consider recommendations from the JCVI before introducing it.
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