06 Jun Vaccinate children where Covid is surging through schools, Labour’s Lisa Nandy says
The party’s shadow foreign secretary spoke out, as health experts consider whether to take the step – and despite world health leaders calling for poor countries to be given jabs first.
“I think you have to listen to what people are saying on the frontline,” Ms Nandy said, pointing to support for vaccinating pupils in hotspot areas including Bolton and Blackburn.
She also said Labour believed the plan to lift all Covid restrictions on 21 June was in jeopardy because of “rising infection rates” in north west towns, “particularly amongst young people”.
However, she rejected any suggestion that those areas should move slower than the rest of the country in completing the roadmap, because “local lockdowns simply didn’t work”.
“We’ve been here before,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, adding: “And then we saw rising infection rates across every nation or region of the United Kingdom. We can’t afford to be there.”
Asked if children should be vaccinated, the shadow foreign secretary replied: “Yes, I think the regulator was absolutely clear that for 12-year-olds and older, the Pfizer vaccine is safe.
“And it’s becoming apparent that the rise in transmission rates is being driven amongst older people, not just school-aged children but secondary school-aged children as well.
“So I think that it is right to follow the public health officials, particularly those in areas that are saying this is what they want to do.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech jab was approved for children aged 12 to 15 by the UK’s medicines regulator last week – but the issue must now be considered by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
It must also weigh up that, while transmission would be reduced, children rarely suffer badly from the disease themselves and giving them vaccines would put them at risk of side-effects.
Ms Nandy also urged the government to toughen up its stance on overseas travel, by scrapping the ‘amber list where visits are discouraged but not outlawed.
“Travelling overseas, particularly when you’ve got countries like Thailand and Vietnam on the amber list where new variants are emerging and being imported into the UK, is the wrong thing to do, and the Government ought to be absolutely clear about that,” Ms Nandy said.
“We think it’s confusing and that confusion is actually dangerous at the moment. It risks unravelling all of the progress that we’ve made.”