Politics latest news: U-turn on vaccines for teenagers not down to 'political pressure', minister insists

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
The Government is going all-out to get young people vaccinated - including turning a circus into a pop-up vaccine centre - Getty
The Government is going all-out to get young people vaccinated - including turning a circus into a pop-up vaccine centre - Getty

A decision to roll out the coronavirus vaccine to younger teenagers is being taken independently by scientists, and not because of "political pressure", a minister has insisted today.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to "imminently" announce advice for 16 and 17-year olds to get the jab - having recently ruled it out.

But Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, told Sky News it was "not a change of heart", and that the Government would follow "the experts".

Acknowledging that children were at less risk of Covid themselves, she added: "One of the factors is in limiting the read of the virus and potentially any mutation of the virus."

She told Times Radio the Government would "have faith" in whatever they advised. She noted that parental consent might be needed.

Asked if ministers had put pressure on the JCVI to change advice, she said such decisions were "not based on political pressure, of course".

​​Follow the latest updates below.

07:22 AM

Afghan government 'can prevail' against Taliban, says General Sir Nick Carter

There is "absolutely every reason to suggest the Afghan government can prevail" against the Taliban, General Sir Nick Carter has said.

"I don't think anybody was in any doubt that Taliban would have a go at provincial capitals," he told Radio 4's Today programme. Herat and Helmand province were "very important areas... for them, these are decisive areas to fight for", he added.

However he added: "The Taliban are taking very significant casualties at the moment... the Afghan army are taking somewhat less. At the moment I think the Afghan army can be reasonable confident that it is fighting back."

Much would come down to "the people's defiance", he noted, highlighting yesterday's spontaneous response to an explosion in support of security services. "If the people come together and demonstrate unity, there is absolutely every reason to suggest the Afghan government can prevail."

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

07:16 AM

Get the vaccine when offered, teens told

Teenagers should take up the Covid vaccine if offered, a scientist who has been researching infection rates has said.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React programme, and chair in epidemiology and public health medicine at Imperial College London, said that a surge in infections to mid-July was being "driven" by younger people.

He told Sky News, adding: "Clearly what's important now is that as many people who get offered the opportunity to have the vaccination should take it."

Asked about the prospect of vaccinating 16 and 17-year-olds, he added: "The highest rates of infection was in the 13 to 24-year-old group, and the increase that we saw going up to mid-July was being driven from these younger people.

He added: "As you say, there is a suggestion that maybe 16 and 17-year-olds will be offered the vaccine, in which case, I think it's important that people should take that up if offered."

07:12 AM

Prioritising teen vaccines will cut transmission, says React study author

Priorisiting vaccines for teenagers as young as 13 will help cut transmission, according to the co-author of the React study tracking Covid in the population.

Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College Londo, told LBC: "Our data would support that in that we'd expect there to be a really good knock-on effect from extending the vaccinations for that group."

The study found a "lot of transmission" among secondary school-aged children, he added. "There's actually kind of proof to say from 13 upwards, and eventually if that could be prioritised that would also reduce transmission".

"What we should probably think about is September, October, November: how much immunity can we have in order to hopefully keep prevalence going down, or if prevalence does start to go up a little bit for it to be as slowly as possible, so there is justification in extending those vaccinations down."

07:09 AM

Public money will be used to support vaccine incentives, minister admits

Public money will be used to fund vouchers and other incentives to boost vaccine uptake among younger people, a minister has said.

Ministers are in talks with dozens of companies, including coffee and cinema chains, about a voucher scheme to be launched later this month, in time for the new academic year.

So far, Uber has agreed to offer free rides, while Deliveroo is offering discounts on takeaway meals from 46,000 restaurants or discounts on shopping bills at the likes of Waitrose, Morrisons and Aldi. Pizza Pilgrims, a restaurant chain, is offering discounts on meal.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, told Times Radio it was "a partnership, so there may be an element of Government money" used.

But she said "everybody would agree it's so important" because of the freedoms granted by the vaccine.

07:05 AM

Senior Tory rounds on Government over 'national disaster' in schools

Rob Halfon, chairman of the education committee, has said the last year has been "a national disaster for pupils", after a damning report into the Government's handling of Covid in schools.

"What went wrong should be part of national Covid inquiry," he said.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

07:04 AM

Cash for jabs? Government considering 'all options', says minister

A minister has said the Government is considering "all options for incentivising" younger people to get the Covid vaccine.

Asked about possible cash incentives to boost uptake of the vaccine among the under-30s, Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, told Sky News the Government had "looked at a variety of mechanisms to encourage young people".

She stressed the "biggest incentive" was the health of the individual and their loved ones "but we'll keep everything on the table and review all options for incentivising everybody to get the vaccine."

06:43 AM

PM ditches overseas holiday in favour of staycation

Hooray for the staycay - AFP
Hooray for the staycay - AFP

Boris Johnson has decided not to travel abroad for his summer holidays and will instead take a “staycation” in the UK later this month, The Telegraph understands.

The Prime Minister’s move matches scores of Britons who have opted to avoid the complexity of foreign travel given the Covid-19 restrictions in place.

“The PM’s going to staycation this year,” said a senior Government source familiar with his holiday plans. The destination is yet to be announced.

Mr Johnson faces mounting pressure to lift more travel rules as 10 Tory MPs called for the “wholly disproportionate and burdensome testing regime for travellers” to end.

06:37 AM

Good Morning

In Tokyo, the Team GB medals keeping piling up - but closer to home, so do the about-turns.

We are expecting an announcement imminently from the JCVI, which will pave the way for 16 and 17 year-olds to get the Covid vaccine - just weeks after it was ruled out by the same body.

Here's today's front page.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting