Updated advice on coronavirus vaccines for 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK is set to be issued in the coming days, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
“We are hoping to receive in the next few days updated advice from the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] on possible vaccination of others in the younger age groups,” she said.
“And we stand ready to implement any recommendations as soon as possible.”
Later in proceedings, Ms Sturgeon said: “We are waiting on JCVI advice. When I say ‘we’, I am obviously referring to the Scottish Government, but the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments are in the same position.”
She added: “First, as a priority, I am particularly hopeful that we will see updated recommendations for 16 and 17-year-olds.
“I am hoping for – possibly veering towards expecting – updated advice from the JCVI in the next day or so.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We continue to keep the vaccination of children and young people under review and will be guided by the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”
The JCVI is understood to be in the process of finalising its updated advice, which will be provided to the government and the devolved administrations in due course.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “With the JCVI apparently about to give the green light to vaccinating 16-year-olds, ministers need to ensure plans are in place to roll out this vital next stage of vaccination while ensuring parents have all the facts and information they need.”
It was announced last month that clinically vulnerable children and those living with at-risk adults will be offered a vaccine – but most teenagers would not.
The JCVI recommended that children “at an increased risk of serious COVID-19 disease” should be offered a jab.
As a result, children aged between 12 and 15-years-old with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities are being offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Children in the same age range who live with an immunosuppressed person are also being offered a vaccine, along with healthy children who are less than three months away from their 18th birthday.
At the time, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “We will also ask the JCVI to consider rolling out vaccines to all children and young people over the age of 12 and although we are not taking this step today, the JCVI is keeping this matter under review and they will be looking at more data as it becomes available – especially on children with a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.”
This was echoed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who said the JCVI would “consider whether to recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at a future date”.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency last month approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds.
The jab was approved for use in the UK for 16 and 17-year-olds in December.
Rishi Sunak ‘made calculation he doesn’t need Muslim voters’, claims Tory MP Rehman Chishti
Rishi Sunak has “made the calculation” that he doesn’t need Muslim voters for his “political purposes”, a former minister has claimed.
Tory MP Rehman Chishti told Sky News’ Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge that during the last leadership election, Mr Sunak promised he was “committed” to engaging with the community and told him: “We will work together on this if I become prime minister”.
But Mr Chishti said he had “not seen the prime minister for over a year and a half”.
Politics Live: Islamophobia row deepens for Sunak
The former foreign minister – who once put himself forward for the Conservative Party leadership – also criticised Mr Sunak for failing to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia, which both David Cameron and Theresa May did while in office.
“I’ve said to the prime minister, look, let’s treat all faith communities fairly and equally,” he told Sophy Ridge.
“So with regards to the Jewish community, antisemitism has seen a real unacceptable rise and therefore the government has rightly put forward the resources [and] it has an independent adviser to deal with antisemitism.
“However, with regards to the Muslim community… the prime minister has failed to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia for the last 16 months and there’s been no funding… for that.
“And then you look at the prime minister’s statement [on Sunday], when he talks about intolerance and hate in politics, and he makes it very clear the government is committed to dealing with that and he says dealing with anti-Semitism. Absolutely.
“But there’s no mention in that statement yesterday about tackling anti-Muslim hate.”
Mr Chishti added: “I think maybe the prime minister has made the calculation, you know, he doesn’t want to engage with the Muslim community because he doesn’t need that for his political purposes.”
Sky News has contacted Number 10 for a response.
Mr Chishti’s remarks come amid an ongoing row within the Tory ranks over the suspension of former deputy chair, Lee Anderson, after he refused to apologise for claiming “Islamists” had taken “control” over London and that mayor Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”.
While Mr Sunak called the remarks unacceptable and “wrong”, he declined to call them Islamophobic.
Some Conservatives have called for Mr Anderson to be reinstated, while others want the government to go further in their condemnation of the Ashfield MP.
Mr Chishti said Mr Anderson’s comments were “completely and utterly unacceptable” and a “lazy use of language”.
But he would not say if the remarks were racist, and said it was another justification for having an independent adviser who could make a ruling without political influence.
Dramatic bodycam video: Two rescued after suspected arson attack in Birmingham
Two people have been rescued after being trapped inside a burning building, following a suspected arson attack.
West Midlands Police said firearms officers spotted the fire at Villa Road, Lozells in Birmingham just before midnight on Sunday.
The police officers alerted the fire brigade and then entered the building next door before leading the occupants out to safety.
Footage showed them using a battering ram to break down the door to make the rescue.
They also checked another property located above the fire but found no one was inside.
Police said their officers were checked by paramedics at the scene, with one going to hospital for further checks for smoke inhalation.
They added that their investigators were treating the incident as arson.
DS David Newson, from Birmingham CID, said: “This fire had the potential to have really serious consequences. Thankfully, the quick-thinking response of officers in the face of danger to themselves got the two residents to safety.
“We are working with our colleagues at WMFS Fire Investigation Team and would like to hear from local people as we try to build a picture of what has happened.
“Villa Road is a main route and we’d ask anyone who was driving along it between 11pm and midnight time, to take a look at any dashcam they may have, as it could hold vital evidence for our investigation.”
New military housing plans paused after backlash
The Ministry of Defence has paused new military housing plans following a backlash over the new rules on entitlement.
Andrew Murrison, a defence minister, said the MoD was “pausing the rollout of the elements of the policy related to Service Family Accommodation” after listening to feedback and conducting a review.
“This includes the move to needs-based allocation and in the short term the widening of entitlement,” he said in the statement published on Tuesday morning.
As first reported in Sky News, defence sources feared officers could quit over the plan to update rules on the subsidised housing offered to personnel in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and – where relevant – their families.
These included changes such as the housing offer for a lieutenant colonel or colonel being downgraded, as the military moves to allocating homes based on needs rather than rank.
The changes had been due to come into force next month.
The MoD will still push ahead with plans “to improve the standard of Single Living Accommodation, help military personnel get on the housing ladder by refunding up to £1,500 expenses and give personnel more preference in how they live,” the minister said.
Mr Murrison’s statement added: “Our Armed Forces personnel make extraordinary sacrifices to protect our nation, which is why our Modernised Accommodation Offer (MAO) gives greater flexibility, backed by an extra £200m investment.
“This is on top of £4bn to upgrade accommodation and build new living quarters for our service personnel over the next decade.”
An online petition calling for a review of the “new accommodation offer” had attracted more than 7,400 signatures by 16 February.
The petition said: “If the policy is implemented as it currently stands, we believe that armed forces retention rates are likely to fall to even lower levels than those at present.
“This could have an irreversible effect on the capability of the armed forces over both the immediate and intermediate term.”
While the shift to needs-based housing was widely-welcomed, according to defence sources, many officers would also see an erosion in the kind of housing they are entitled to live in following a three-year transition period – which caused outrage in some quarters.
One source told Sky that under the current system, a lieutenant colonel or a colonel – or their equivalent rank in the navy and RAF – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-to-five bedroom house with a floor area of 155.5 square metres.
A major – one step down in rank – with a partner and two children would be entitled to a four-bedroom house with a 137 square metre floor area.
Under the new system, any officer of any rank would be entitled to a house with a bedroom for themselves and an additional one for each child – meaning the higher-ranking lieutenant colonels or colonels would effectively see their housing allocation downgraded.
The source said that no compensation was being offered to make up for the loss of space.
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