Vulnerable children or teenagers living with adults at increased risk from Covid are to be offered a jab, the vaccines minister announced on Monday.
Nadhim Zahawi also announced that all 17-year-olds would be entitled to a jab three months before their 18th birthday.
Children aged 12-15 who are more vulnerable to serious infection, and those living in households where adults are at greater risk from the virus, will also be offered jabs, he said. The Pfizer jab has already been licensed for use in the UK in children over 12.
But England is not planning to follow countries such as the US, France and Israel and make Covid vaccines available to all children from aged 12.
Mr Zahawi made a statement in Parliament on Monday afternoon confirming the moves. He said he had accepted recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
It means thousands of children in the UK aged 12 to 15 with the following conditions can access the vaccine: severe neuro-disabilities, Down's syndrome, immunosuppression, multiple or severe learning disabilities.
Other conditions, including type 1 diabetes, are not currently included in the list.
Under existing guidance, young people aged 16 to 17 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious Covid should have already been offered a jab.
The JCVI has also said those aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person, such as a parent or grandparent, should be offered a Covid vaccine.
This is to protect loved ones at home who are at higher risk of serious coronavirus and who may not get the full immune protection from their own Covid vaccines.
Announcing the move in the Commons, Mr Zahawi, said: "I know that people will have questions about what it means for them and their children, but I can assure them that nobody needs to come forward at this stage. The NHS will get in touch with them at the right time and they will make sure that the jabs are delivered in a setting that meets their complex needs."
Asked why the Government was not planning to vaccinate all older children, Mr Zahawi earlier told Sky News: “The JCVI are continuing to review that. There is new emerging data of children vaccinated in America and elsewhere with a first dose, not yet enough data with a second dose, so they want to look at all the data.”
He said there had been cases of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, in some children who had received the vaccine in the US.
It came as London health chiefs vowed to continue to make vaccines available to adults “for as long as it takes”, regardless of the ending of social distancing rules today, to drive flagging take-up rates.
About 1,000 people were vaccinated in four hours at the Tate Modern last Friday evening, showing that “festival-style events” can lure young Londoners.
But first jabs are now accounting for only one in five of all vaccinations given in London – 8,628 of 41,569 jabs last Friday and 7,891 of the 37,508 given on Saturday.
Almost 9.4m first and second doses have now been given in London. There were 5,451 new cases announced in the capital on Sunday night, returning to rates last seen in January.
Sir David Sloman, regional director of the NHS in London, said: “Today may mark the end of lockdown, but it’s not the end of this pandemic. The NHS will continue to offer vaccination to everyone who wants it, for as long as it takes.”
Cllr Danny Thorpe, London Councils’ executive member for health, said: “Boroughs will continue our efforts alongside the NHS and volunteers to ensure no one is left behind and all Londoners get their jabs.”
A total of 15,680 Londoners have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test. New research on Monday from the Health Foundation think-tank said the capital had been the hardest-hit region for deaths among under 65s.
It found there had been 25.5 deaths per 100,000 in this age group – almost four times the 6.4 per 100,000 rate in the South West.
Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Tower Hamlets had the third, fourth and eighth highest death rates in the country.
People aged younger than 65 in England’s poorest areas were almost four times more likely to die from covid than those in the wealthiest areas.
However, boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, Islington and Lambeth are not considered priorities for Government “levelling up” funding despite having below average healthy life expectancy and high levels of deprivation.