Vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi told Parliament tonight: “We know vaccination is our best defence against this virus.
“Our jabs have already prevented more than 112,000 deaths, more than 143,000 hospitalisations and over 24 million infections.”
Now youngsters aged 12-15 are to be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Mr Zahawi said: “At every point in our vaccination programme, we’ve been guided by best clinical advice.
“The advice we’ve received from the four Chief Medical Officers today sets out their view that 12 to 15-year-olds will benefit from vaccination against Covid-19.”
The NHS is now preparing to deliver a schools-based vaccination programme. Invitations for vaccination will begin next week.
Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by healthcare staff prior to vaccination, in line with existing school immunisation programmes.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I have accepted the recommendation from the Chief Medical Officers to expand vaccination to those aged 12 to 15 – protecting young people from catching coronavirus, reducing transmission in schools and keeping pupils in the classroom.
“I am very grateful for the expert advice I have received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and UK Chief Medical Officers.
“Our outstanding NHS stands ready to move forward with rolling out the vaccine to this group with the same sense of urgency we've had at every point in our vaccination programme.”
More than four in five adults across the UK have received both Covid-19 vaccine doses, with more than half of all 16 and 17-year-olds coming forward for their first jab.
Addressing parents’ reluctance to allow their children the jab, Mr Zahawi said: “Whatever decision teenagers and parents take, they must be supported and not stigmatised in any way.
“We must continue to respect individual choice.
“But to those who remain undecided, I want to say this: the MHRA is the best medical regulator in the world – and they have rigorously reviewed the safety of our vaccines.
“They have concluded they are safe for 12- to 15-year olds.”