Boris Johnson has admitted the UK needs to “go faster” in vaccinating 16 and 17-year-olds despite many teenagers taking up the opportunity to get the coronavirus jab.
It comes as latest figures from NHS England show that half of the 16 and 17-year-old age group in England and Scotland have had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
This rises to two-thirds of the same age category in Wales.
Less than a month ago, the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation (JCVI) approved that teenagers in this age group could be given a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
However, an estimated third of 18 to 29 year-olds in England still haven’t had a single jab.
At present, all over-18s are being offered both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, with those aged 16 and 17 initially being offered one dose – with the intention being that a second will be offered at a later date.
Those over-12s with underlying health conditions or those who live with others who are at higher risk from COVID are also eligible to get a vaccine.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the PM said: “I would urge all 16 to 17-year-olds, everybody who knows 16 to 17-year-olds – the numbers are coming up very fast now, it is very encouraging to see more and more 16 to 17-year-olds taking the jab – but we need to go faster with those.
“There are still some who need that protection and I would just urge everybody who hasn’t yet had a jab to go and get one.”
There is also mounting pressure on government ministers to decide whether the vaccine will be rolled out to 12 to 15-year-olds.
Education Secretary Gavin Williams told Sky News that a decision will be made “very, very soon” and that the NHS is ready to begin the process if the government “get the get-go” from the JCVI.
The PM also urged older people to come forward for COVID booster jabs and confirmed the scheme will be going ahead as planned in September.
“The priorities now are the older generation going into autumn and winter, and we have always said there would be a booster programme in September – in this month – and we are going ahead with that,” he said.
On Wednesday, the JCVI recommended that around half a million people with severely weakened immune systems are given a third dose.
This extra dose will be offered to anyone over 12 who was severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second dose, including those with leukaemia, advanced HIV, and recent organ transplants.
The recommendation, made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), is separate from a potential booster programme that would cover a larger proportion of the population.
While a booster would be designed to extend the already strong protection someone has received from their first and second jabs, this third dose is for people whose compromised immune systems mean two are insufficient.