United Kingdom

Now Gavin Williamson is accused of putting pressure on Boris Johnson to back Covid jabs for pupils

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has been accused of putting pressure on No 10 to allow the vaccination of 12 to 18-year-olds to help keep schools open – as debate rages over the ethics of jabbing children.

A Whitehall source told The Mail on Sunday that the Department of Health was 'under huge pressure from the Department for Education' because 'the teaching unions and school leaders want an easy way out without the need for masks, bubble and distancing'.

The issue has split opinion across Government, with Ministers and advisers caught in an ethical quandary over the unknown long-term health risks of jabbing children, as set against the benefits gained from stopping the fast spread of the virus among teenagers.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has been accused of putting pressure on No 10 to allow the vaccination of 12 to 18-year-olds to help keep schools open – as debate rages over the ethics of jabbing children

The Government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is deciding whether to extend vaccinations to the under-18s, with one source suggesting a compromise could be found under which it is limited to the over-16s.

Last night, a source at the Education Department said Mr Williamson was not personally pushing for teenagers to be jabbed, adding: 'He is waiting for the advice of the JCVI.'

A No 10 source also said that it was 'entirely a matter for the JCVI, not Downing Street' to decide whether to extend the immunisation programme.

A Whitehall source told The Mail on Sunday that the Department of Health (pictured, Matt Hancock) was 'under huge pressure from the Department for Education' because 'the teaching unions and school leaders want an easy way out without the need for masks, bubble and distancing'

The JCVI has said that it will delay a decision until more data is available.

Last week, Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford said there were 'really serious issues' to consider over whether children should be vaccinated against Covid-19, 'on the one hand the safety of the vaccine for children, and ethical issues as well – for whose benefit are children being vaccinated?'

Mr Drakeford said that while under-16s were 'very unlikely' to become ill and 'very, very unlikely' to fall seriously ill with Covid, that had to be balanced against the fact that children could transmit the virus to people who might experience more serious consequences.

The issue has split opinion across Government, with Ministers and advisers caught in an ethical quandary over the unknown long-term health risks of jabbing children, as set against the benefits gained from stopping the fast spread of the virus among teenagers (file photo)

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, has previously said there are 'ethical dilemmas' when it comes to vaccinating children, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock has claimed there are plenty of good reasons to give Covid jabs to children.

Clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines in children aged 12 to 15 in the UK and US have reported no safety concerns, with mainly mild side effects such as a sore arm, tiredness, muscle pains, chills or a high temperature.

Most of the symptoms can be eased by taking paracetamol.

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