Donelan shut down by Burley for avoiding vaccine question
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University Minister Michelle Donelan was repeatedly asked to confirm reports that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will recommend offering the coronavirus vaccine to 16 and 17-year-olds. However, despite being endlessly grilled by Sky News’ Kay Burley, Ms Donelan wanted to move on and discuss the Government’s new Turing Scheme which will provide funding for students to study abroad. Ms Burley was visibly annoyed when the minister told her how to conduct the interview before delivering a brutal put down to the Tory MP.
Speaking on Sky News, Ms Donelan was immediately asked about the reports the JCVI will recommend vaccinating some teens with an estimated 1.4 million being eligible.
Currently, only over-12s with underlying health conditions are offered the jab but the move may be introduced to protect school children before they return to school after summer.
Ms Donelan was asked whether the reports were true but insisted people wait for the JCVI to make the announcement themselves.
Ms Burley insisted the news was already widely reported amid several leaks and simply asked the minister to be open.
The pair awkwardly went back and forth for several minutes with Ms Burley saying: “What I’m asking you is, do you think, as a representative of the government this morning that parental consent will be needed if those jabs, if those jobs do go ahead.
“Which will be announced imminently I get it.”
Ms Burley also said there would be many worried parents watching the programme who want to know whether the vaccine will be given to their children.
An annoyed Ms Donelan replied: “As a representative of the Government, I’m waiting for the JCVI update on this which could be today.
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“But it is very imminent and as I’ve already said I’m not going to preempt a policy announcement.
“I am a minister in the Department of Education. I’m here today to talk about…”
Ms Burley interrupted and added: “If I could sort of direct the interview if you wouldn’t mind, let me ask you one final question about jobs.
“Given that kids generally don’t suffer too badly even if they do contract Covid.
“Would it be for the greater good that we would vaccinate young people because if they’re with their grandparents or whatever they’re more likely to be super-spreaders and pass it on.
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“So rather than it being for the benefit of kids, it would be for the greater good?”
Ms Donelan once again deflected the question and said it would be likely for the JCVI to lay out its plans later on.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said earlier this week she was hoping for an update from the JCVI on whether 16 and 17-year-olds should receive the vaccine.
The Government is looking at ways to increase vaccine uptake and spread in young people following a slump in uptake.
Experts are concerned the young, who may not suffer extreme COVID-19 symptoms, may enable the virus to spread and potentially mutate which could hurt the vaccination programme.
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.”
Ms Donelan appeared on Sky News to promote the new Turing Scheme which will give grants from the £110million fund to enable students to study abroad.
Over 120 universities and further education institutions will be eligible for the cash which will see priority given to those from less advantageous backgrounds.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The chance to work and learn in a country far from home is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – which broadens minds, sharpens skills and improves outcomes.
“But until now it has been an opportunity disproportionately enjoyed by those from the most privileged backgrounds. The Turing Scheme has welcomed a breadth of successful applications from schools and colleges across the country, reflecting our determination that the benefits of Global Britain are shared by all.
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