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

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Norway is the latest country to sign plans to roll out Covid vaccines for children under 16.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said there are “more advantages than disadvantages” of giving young people the jab.

Starting next week, young people aged 12 to 15 in Norway will be invited to sign up for the Pfizer vaccine.

The Scandinavian nation was one of many EU members to permanently ban AstraZeneca’s jab due to its rare link to blood clots.

The move to routine child injections brings Norway in line with countries such as 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 benefits than harm from a vaccine.

‘There is a lot of infection among children and young people. Vaccines will help this group to lead a more normal everyday life.’

The UK vaccine advisory panel has so far resisted calls to vaccinated young people under 16, making the country an international outlier.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said there were 'more pros than cons' to giving young people the jab

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said there were ‘more pros than cons’ to giving young people the jab

Norway, like other European countries, chose Pfizer’s vaccine because it is the injection with the most safety and efficacy data in children.

If the UK advisory panel were to recommend vaccinating children, the same vaccine would likely be used in the rollout.

But the Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee (JCVI) – an independent body – is still weighing the risks and benefits of vaccinating children.

Education minister Gavin Williamson vows to ‘move heaven and earth’ to avoid UK schools having to close again

Gavin Williamson vowed today to ‘move heaven and earth’ to prevent schools from closing again over fears of a big bang in cases as classrooms move back.

The education secretary said he was “absolutely” confident that students will take exams normally this year after the fiasco caused by the pandemic this summer and last.

But he admitted that face masks and other restrictive measures could make a comeback this winter if the number of infections starts to rise.

Mr Williamson even refused to rule out classes, claiming it was “not something we would expect very much.”

Schools must work with local public health teams to decide what action is best to keep students safe this time around.

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

He put pressure on No10’s vaccine advisory board to speak out in favor of the move, despite the group having serious reservations about the benefit.

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

It was also unconvinced that vaccinating children just to protect adults justified the move and questioned the true prevalence of long-term Covid among young people.

All 16 and 17 year olds in the UK are already being invited to the Pfizer vaccine and do not need parental or guardian consent to get one.

But currently only young people under the age of 16 who live with vulnerable people or who have a weak immune system are invited.

Children have only a small risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid and a negligible chance of death, while Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been linked to rare cases of myocarditis in young people.

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

The Moderna shot, which works in a similar way, is said to carry the same risk.

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

Meanwhile, Ms Solberg also revealed that the final easing of lockdown restrictions 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 continue to relax the rules for live events.

Starting this weekend, indoor venues will be allowed to admit 5,000 participants instead of 3,000 and outdoor events will be allowed to seat 10,000, an increase of 7,000.

It came as the UK Education Secretary today stepped up pressure on the JCVI to give the green light to plans to vaccinate children.

In a series of interviews this morning, Gavin Williamson said he “very much hoped” that the group would agree to routinely vaccinate young people aged 12 to 15.

He suggested the delayed decision made parents anxious to send their kids back to class this week after the summer break.

“I think parents would find it very reassuring to be able to choose whether their children should get a vaccine or not,” he told BBC Breakfast.

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

And there are fears of a similar big bang in cases as schools in the rest of the UK have restarted.

The country already registers 35,000 infections per day and the number of hospital admissions is creeping up.

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