Norway becomes latest EU country to green light Covid jabs for 12-year-olds

Norway has become the latest country to sign off on plans to roll out Covid vaccines to children under the age of 16.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said there were ‘more advantages than disadvantages’ to giving youngsters the jab.

From next week, youngsters aged 12 to 15 in Norway will be invited to come forward for the Pfizer vaccine.

The Scandinavian nation was one of several EU members to ban AstraZeneca‘s jab permanently over its rare link to blood clots.

The move to routinely jab children brings Norway in line with the likes of France, Spain, Italy, the US and the Netherlands. 

Speaking at a press conference today, Ms Solberg said: ‘The professional advice is that 12 to 15-year-olds will get more advantages than disadvantages from a vaccine.

‘There is a lot of infection among children and young people. Vaccines will contribute to this group being able to have a more normal everyday life.’

Britain’s vaccine advisory panel has so far resisted calls to vaccinated under-16s, making the country an international outlier.

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg said there were 'more advantages than disadvantages' to giving youngsters the jab

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said there were ‘more advantages than disadvantages’ to giving youngsters the jab

Norway, like other European nations, has chosen Pfizer’s vaccine because it is the jab with the most safety and efficacy data on children. 

If the UK’s advisory panel were to recommend vaccinating children it is likely the rollout would use the same vaccine.

But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) — an independent body — is still weighing up the risks and benefits of vaccinating children.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson vows to ‘move heaven and earth’ to avoid shutting British schools again 

Gavin Williamson today vowed to ‘move heaven and earth’ to avoid shutting schools again amid fears of a big bang in cases now that classrooms are going back. 

The Education Secretary said he was ‘absolutely’ certain pupils will sit exams as normal this year after the fiasco caused by the pandemic this summer and last. 

But he admitted face masks and other restrictive measures could make a comeback this winter if infection rates start to spiral.

Mr Williamson even refused to rule out classes taking place outside but claimed it was ‘not something that we’d be expecting to see an awful lot of’. 

Schools have been left to work with local public health teams to decide what action is best to keep pupils safe this time around.

Mr Williamson also backed calls for vaccines to be given to healthy children aged 12 to 15 to help keep transmission low in schools.

He put pressure on No10’s vaccine advisory board to come down in favour of the move despite the group having serious reservations about the benefit. 

In guidance published in July, the group said the small risk of heart inflammation from vaccines outweighed the tiny threat coronavirus poses to them. 

It was also not convinced that vaccinating children solely to protect adults justified the move and raised doubts about the true prevalence of long Covid in youngsters. 

All 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK are already being invited for the Pfizer vaccine and don’t need permission from a parent or guardian to get one. 

But only under-16s who live with vulnerable people or who have immune weaknesses themselves are being invited at present.

Children have only a small risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid and a vanishingly small chance of death, while Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are associated with rare cases of myocarditis in young people.

The JCVI said in July there was a risk of the heart inflammation in about one in 20,000 young people after being fully immunised with Pfizer’s vaccine. 

The Moderna jab, which works in a very similar way, is thought to carry the same risk. 

It ruled against recommending the vaccine to healthy children then because the risk of dying from the virus for them is lower than one in a million. 

Meanwhile, Ms Solberg also revealed that the final easing of lockdown curbs in Norway is being delayed until more people are fully vaccinated.

Restrictions such as limits on social groups were expected to be lifted around September 12. A new date has not been set. 

But the Government said it will still press ahead with loosening the rules for live events.

From this weekend, indoor venues will be allowed 5,000 entrants instead of 3,000 and outdoor events will be allowed to hold 10,000, up from 7,000.   

It came as the UK Education Secretary today ramped up pressure on the JCVI to give the go-ahead to plans to vaccinate children. 

During a round of interviews this morning, Gavin Williamson said he ‘very much hoped’ the group would come down in favour of routinely inoculating youngsters aged 12 to 15. 

He suggested the delayed decision was making parents anxious about sending their children back to classrooms this week after the summer break. 

‘I think parents would find it deeply reassuring to have a choice of whether their children should have a vaccine or not,’ he told BBC Breakfast.

Covid cases skyrocketed in Scotland when classes went back after the summer break in mid-August.

And there are fears of a similar big bang in cases now that schools across the rest of the UK have started to restart. 

The country is already recording 35,000 infections each day and hospitalisations are creeping up.

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