University students could be required to be fully-vaccinated in order to attend lectures in person and live in halls of residence.
Boris Johnson has suggested the move in order to help drive up the rates of young people taking up the vaccine, The Times reports.
‘We need to encourage young people to have the vaccination’
An education minister has repeatedly refused to rule out the move during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
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Conservative MP and minister Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) initially answered “no” when asked about the plans on Sky News, before stressing the need to prioritise education, she did not take the opportunity to rule the policy out later on.
Ms Ford told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “So obviously, I can’t comment on things that haven’t been announced. But one does need to look at every practicality to make sure that we can get students back safely and make sure that we can continue to prioritise education.”
And she told Times Radio: “We don’t want to go back to a situation where large parts of education were closed to many young people and children, and a key part of doing that is having that double-vaccinated population.
“So I think we need to continue to encourage our young people to step forward, have the vaccination, and that is the way that they can have that freedom and confidence that they’ll be able to have that full university life.”
PM left ‘raging’
The Times reported that the Prime Minister made the suggestion, subject to medical exemptions, during a virtual meeting from his isolation at Chequers.
The newspaper reports that Mr Johnson has been “raging” about the relatively low uptake of the vaccine among young people.
It comes after England manager Gareth Southgate was recruited to help push up vaccination rates among young people.
‘It’s like something out of Huxley’s Brave New World’
Robert Halfon, Conservative MP and chairman of the education select committee, told the newspaper: “This is wrong-headed.
“It’s like something out of Huxley’s Brave New World where people with vaccine passports will be engineered into social hierarchies — ie those who will be given a higher education and those who do not.
“Where does this stop? Do we fire apprentices who have not had the vaccine? Do we remove older students from FE (further education) colleges? Do we close down adult education courses where adults have not had the vaccine? I hope not.”
A version of this article originally appeared on NationalWorld.com