Boris Johnson has said the UK needs to speed up its vaccination of 16 and 17-year olds, despite there being a strong uptake of the jab within the age group.
Figures show that almost two-thirds of 16 and 17-year-olds in Wales have had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and half of the age group in England and Scotland have been jabbed.
The Prime Minister said teenagers were “a very important group for potential transmission”.
“I would urge all 16 to 17-year-olds, everybody who knows 16 to 17-year-olds – the numbers are coming up very fast now, it is very encouraging to see more and more 16 to 17-year-olds taking the jab – but we need to go faster with those,” he told reporters at Merville Barracks in Colchester on Thursday.
“There are still some who need that protection and I would just urge everybody who hasn’t yet had a jab to go and get one.”
NHS England said more than 620,000 young people aged 16 and 17 have now been jabbed, less than a month after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved they could be given a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
In Wales, 63 per cent of the age group have had one jab, while in Scotland the figure is 51 per cent.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for NHS England’s vaccination programme, said: “As school and college terms are due to start back shortly, it is really important that young people continue to come forward for their life-saving vaccine and visit the NHS grab-a-jab finder to find a convenient site, with walk-in vaccinations taking place at nightclubs, university campuses and places of worship this weekend.
“It has never been easier to drop in and get your vaccine: it is safe, effective and will provide vital protection for you and your family and friends.”
Meanwhile, political pressure was building on experts advising on the vaccination of even younger people.
Gavin Williamson has said he hopes a decision on vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds will be made “very, very soon”.
The Education Secretary said the NHS is ready to go into schools to deliver jabs to that age group “if we get the get-go” from the JCVI.
But JCVI deputy chairman Professor Anthony Harnden said there are “many” arguments for and against jabs for younger children, and the committee – which is independent from Government – will decide “in the children’s best interests” without outside influence.
The Prime Minister also urged older people to come forward for Covid booster jabs ahead of the autumn and winter months, as he confirmed plans to press ahead with a booster scheme.
“The priorities now are the older generation going into autumn and winter, and we have always said there would be a booster programme in September – in this month – and we are going ahead with that,” he said.
Yesterday, the JCVI recommended third doses be given to people with severely weakened immune systems, who are likely to have been unable to mount an immune response from their first two jabs.
It comes as vaccine manufacturer Moderna confirmed it will submit data to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and other regulatory authorities around the world in the coming days on the use of its vaccine for boosters.