Children could start getting Covid jabs in the summer holidays under government plans being drawn up to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds.
Cases are rising among school-age children, and it is hoped extending the rollout will be able to stave off further restrictions – and curb the spread of new variants.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned “a huge proportion of the latest cases are in children”, and has urged secondary school pupils to take a Covid test today before going back to school after the half term break.
An official source told The Telegraph that under current modelling, the government “would be ready” to begin vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds by the second half of August, or early September at the latest.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the Pfizer jab for 12 to 15-year-olds on Friday.
Ministers are now waiting on the green light from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, according to The Telegraph.
It comes as plans to lift all restrictions by June 21 have been cast into doubt following the rise in cases among young people and the spread of new variants.
Children aged 10 and over and teenagers account for more than a quarter of recent Covid cases, according to Public Health England – the highest among all age groups.
And the new Delta or Indian variant is now Britain’s dominant strain – with cases doubling every nine days.
There were 85,600 infections in the last week of May, up from 48,500 the previous week.
Testing has indicated cases in England increased by around 70% in the last seven days.
As well as jabs for children within weeks, older age groups are being urged to get their second doses.
Ministers want to “double-dose as soon as possible” – and over-40s are set to be given their second jabs within eight weeks rather than the 12 at present.
Quicker vaccinations could see all over-40s get their second jab by July 5.
Meanwhile over-25s could be given their first jab from as early as next week.
All over-18s in the UK are likely to have been offered a jab by June 21. The programme could then be extended to 16 to 18-year-olds – a group the Pfizer vaccine is already approved for – before 12 to 15-year-olds get it.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “We have carefully reviewed clinical trial data in children aged 12 to 15 and have concluded the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective in this age group and that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.”
The Health Secretary has said there is evidence to suggest that vaccines are behind the fact that deaths and hospitalisations have fallen even as infections rise.