The government wants to press ahead with a plan to vaccinate children under 16
Zahawi says vaccinating children would require parental consent
Parents of 12 to 15-year-olds will be asked for consent before their children are given a Covid jab.
Scientists have claimed that the risk for children is very low from the virus and so they do not need to have the vaccine.
But the argument has been made that vaccinating teenagers could lead to less disruption at schools, as well as lowering the risk of youngsters passing the virus to older people.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed parents would be asked for permission before their children are inoculated, telling Sky News: “I can give that assurance, absolutely.”
In another interview, he explained that under-16s would be able to overrule their parents under a long-standing legal precedent.
If a teenager is deemed competent to make a choice about their medical treatment “then that decision will go in the favour of what the teenager decides to do,” he told TimesRadio.
Get a daily morning politics briefing straight to your inbox. Sign up for the free Mirror Politics newsletter
The precedent, which is known as a Gillick competent, applies if “they’re believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment”, according to the NHS.
Whitehall sources told The Sun that parents will receive a letter within days where they will be asked for their consent for the jabs.
Mr Zahawi insisted no decision had been made yet on whether to start vaccinating younger teenagers after the vaccine experts stopped short of recommending the jab for all 12 to 15-year-olds.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that the benefits to their health were “marginal” and only backed inoculating 200,000 kids with underlying health conditions.
The UK’s chief medical officers have been asked to look at the plan, with a decision expected to come shortly.
Mr Zahawi insisted ministers were still discussing the idea, saying: “We have not made any decisions, so we haven’t decided not to listen to the experts.
“On the contrary, all four ministers, the Secretary of State Sajid Javid and his fellow ministers in the devolved administrations have agreed to ask the chief medical officers to convene expert groups, including the JCVI being in that, to be able to recommend which way we should go on healthy 12 to 15-year-olds.”
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said that the overall benefits need to be considered when looking at vaccinating children.
He said it would be right for the chief medical officers to look at it more broadly than the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which is only considering health factors.
Prof Edmunds told the BBC’s Today programme: “Obviously we need to take into consideration the wider effect that Covid might have on children in their educational and developmental achievements.
“It’s difficult to say exactly how many children haven’t been infected, but it’s probably about half of them. So that’s about six million children.
“If we allow infection just to run through the population that’s a lot of children who will be infected, and that will be a lot of disruption to schools in the coming months. I think you have to take that into account.”
Prof Edmunds argued that there would likely be a large increase in infections from classrooms reopening along with people going back to offices.
He said that any increased demand on the NHS would also raise the chances of future lockdowns.