The latest phase in the UK’s booster rollout will allow teenagers within this age bracket to schedule an appointment when the national booking service opens at the start of next week. Walk-in slots will also be made available.
Previously, the third dose of the vaccine was only recommended for clinically vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds who were at risk of developing severe symptoms of coronavirus.
The health service said invitations will be sent out this week urging people in the age group to book their appointment through the online booking service, or by finding their nearest walk-in site.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: “More than four in five adults in England have already been boosted, helping to protect them from severe illness and reduce the pressure on the NHS in the face of Omicron.
“We’re now extending the programme to 16 and 17-year-olds so they can top-up their immunity this winter to keep themselves and their friends safe.
“We can learn to live with Covid-19 if everybody comes forward for their vaccines and gets boosted now.”
According to most recent data, more than 600,000 people between the ages 16 and 17 in England have had their second jab, and will be able to get boosted in the coming weeks as they reach three months after the second dose.
Since the jab programme was opened to this age group in August, seven in 10 people aged 16 and 17 have had their first dose.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, said: “The NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme is expanding once again to offer eligible young people aged 16 and 17 the chance to book their boosters through the online booking service from tomorrow, with walk-in sites also available across the country, as the biggest and fastest vaccine drive in health service history continues at pace.
“Covid has caused so much disruption for so many families over the past two years, affecting young people’s lives and education, and getting vaccinated protects them, their family and their friends, letting them stay at school and continue socialising.
“We know that the best protection against coronavirus is to get vaccinated and I’d urge everyone, whatever your age, to come forward and get that vital top-up as soon as it is possible.”
Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s shadow schools minister, praised the news of bookings opening for teenage booster jabs, but said children had been an “afterthought” in the government’s response to the pandemic.
He said: “Thanks to amazing NHS staff the vaccine rollout is our best defence against Covid, but headline announcements cannot hide repeated failures by Conservative ministers to get this protection out to young people.
“With nearly half a million 16 and 17-year-olds completely unvaccinated, ministers should be focused on maximising uptake alongside getting proper ventilation in place across schools and colleges to stop the disruption to students’ learning.
“Our children have been treated as an afterthought throughout this pandemic. Ministers need a plan to protect education now.”
In line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance, the NHS cannot vaccinate 16 and 17-year-olds within 12 weeks, or 84 days, of a positive Covid-19 test.
Those aged 16 and 17 and considered at high risk from Covid-19 must wait four weeks, or 28 days, from the date of a positive Covid-19 test before getting any dose of the vaccine.