- The UK government is set to decide this week if younger teens should be eligible to receive the COVID-19 shot.
- Nadhim Zahawi said parents will be asked for consent to allow their children aged 12 to 15 to take the COVID jab.
- But if the children are judged to be “competent,” they can overrule their parents’ decisions.
UK teenagers aged 12 to 15 will be able to overrule their parents and opt to take the COVID-19 vaccine — once its approved for that age group — if they are thought to be “competent” enough to make that decision for themselves, said the UK’s vaccines minister on Sunday.
Speaking to UK broadcaster Times Radio on September 5, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi said parents of younger teens will still be asked to give consent if the vaccine roll-out is approved for children aged 12 to 15.
The UK government is expected to arrive at a decision on vaccine eligibility for this age group this week.
Zahawi said even if parents don’t give their consent, children can choose to override them and get the shot if they are “deemed to be competent to make that decision, with all the information available.”
“What you essentially do is make sure that the clinicians discuss this with the parents, with the teenager, and if they are then deemed to be able to make a decision that is competent, then that decision will go in favor of what the teenager decides to do,” Zahawi told Times Radio.
The UK government has been facing pressure to quickly make the COVID vaccine available to younger teens. In a letter published by the British Medical Journal on September 3, doctors, educators, and parents called for the UK’s Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to conduct a vaccine roll-out in schools “to maximize access and uptake” among teens 12 to 15.
“Children are now returning to school against a background of community infection levels 26 times higher than at the same time last year, and with the much more transmissible Delta variant accounting for almost all infections,” read the letter. “The government has a duty to protect children, our wider communities, and the National Health Service and healthcare workers from the impact of a fourth wave following schools re-opening.”
The UK is currently seeing an uptick in the number of daily COVID-19 cases recorded. Based on COVID case numbers from September 6, at least 249,169 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the last seven days, a 3.6% increase from the last week. In terms of inoculation rates, at press time, 79.8% of people in the UK aged 16 and over have taken their second dose of the vaccine, while 88.8% of the UK’s vaccine-eligible population has received their first dose of the COVID jab.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that everyone aged 12 and older be vaccinated to curb the spread of COVID-19, particularly in light of a sharp surge in COVID-19 infections in America. The two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was authorized this May for teens aged 12 to 15.
The New York Times also reported last week that around 48 million children aged 12 and below are not currently eligible to be inoculated against the coronavirus, forcing some parents to keep their kids at home until a vaccine is authorized for their age group.