In a press conference from Chequers this evening – where Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after being contacted by track and trace – a number of updates were issued on the next steps as England moves out of lockdown.
One of the major updates was that clinically vulnerable 12-15-year-olds will be offered vaccines in the coming months, including those with severe neuro disabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression illnesses and severe learning disabilities. They will be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi also said that those in the age category who live with people that have the same illnesses or disabilities will also be offered the vaccine.
Seventeen years olds who are less than three months from their 18th birthday will also be offered a vaccine, however, there are currently no plans to extend beyond this, with the JVCI not yet advising this move.
Currently, the JCVI recommend that those aged 16-18 should be offered vaccination if they are in a priority Phase 1 group or their household contains someone who is immunosuppressed.
Nadhim Zaahawi said in a statement to the Commons earlier today;
“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.
“We will also ask the JVCI to consider rolling out vaccines to all children and young people over the age of 12 and although we are not taking this step today, the JVCI is keeping this matter under review and they will be looking at more data as it becomes available – especially on children with a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.”
Boris Johnson also said during his briefing that vaccine passports would soon be compulsory for nightclubs and similar venues, despite these venues being able to open from midnight last night.
It is believed that the reason for the decision is to boost vaccination uptake in young people. Boris Johnson said he was concerned about “the continuing risk posed by nightclubs” and that from the end of September entry was set to be barred for those who are not fully vaccinated.
Currently, young people (those aged under 40) have the lowest vaccine uptake of any age group, with much of the concentrated at the lower end of the range.
The prime minister addressed the issue of self-isolation, with many sectors struggling for staff after self-isolation ‘pings’ on the NHS Covid app. He said;
“A very small number of named, fully vaccinated, critical workers” in sectors such as energy, transport and food supply, would be allowed to return to work after being ordered to self-isolate.
These workers will be allowed to leave quarantine only to work if they take a negative PCR test and continue to have rapid tests daily. Many hospitality workers had hoped for a similar scheme for them, with pub chain Greene King’s CEO, Nick Mackenzie, suggesting that as many as one in five of their workers had been affected. This has led to 33 of the chain’s pubs being closed.
The government has been criticised for largely abandoning legal restrictions and instead focusing on personal responsibility. The government’s plans to introduce passports after nightclubs are already open, and leaving the decision to the discretion of individual businesses, leaves the country in limbo as to the state of the pandemic. The message appears to be: the pandemic is far from over, but the government intervention is.