Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said if the UK’s chief medical officers recommend vaccination then it ‘absolutely’ is the right thing to do, but he said he does not want to ‘pre-determine’ that.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided against backing the move on health grounds alone because Covid-19 presents such a low risk to younger teenagers.
But Professor Chris Whitty and the three other chief medical officers in the UK are reviewing the wider benefits of vaccinating the age group, such as minimising school absences, and are expected to present their findings within days.
The government is awaiting their advice before making a final decision but ministers have indicated they are keen to authorise a wider rollout.
Speaking to Sky on Sunday, Mr Zahawi said: ‘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.’
He said parents of healthy 12 to 15-year-olds will be asked for consent if coronavirus jabs are approved for their children.
On Friday, the JCVI approved a widening of the vaccination programme to another 200,000 children aged between 12 and 15 who have underlying health conditions.
But they stopped short of recommending the full rollout after investigating potential side-effects, such as the extremely rare events of inflammation of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis, after Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations.