UK to offer vaccines to 12- to 15-year-olds

Covid-19 vaccines updates

Covid-19 jabs will be offered to all children in the UK aged between 12 and 15 as early as next week, as concerns mount over a fresh wave of infections in schools in the autumn.

The UK’s four Chief Medical Officers concluded that universal vaccination was necessary on mental health grounds and to avoid educational disruption. The vaccines will be offered to children through the school immunisation programme.

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and his counterparts in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales confirmed the decision on Monday in a letter to the health secretaries of the four nations of the UK.

“The additional likely benefits of reducing educational disruption, and the consequent reduction in public health harm from educational disruption, on balance provide sufficient extra advantage in addition to the marginal advantage at an individual level identified by the [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] to recommend in favour of vaccinating this group,” said the letter.

First doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine have previously been available to 16- and 17-year-olds, alongside some children aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable or living with an immunosuppressed relative, after the UK’s vaccine advisory group stalled on inoculating healthy children over concerns about rare cases of severe heart inflammation.

As of September 5, nearly 139,000 under-16s in England had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

The JCVI, which advises the UK government, is yet to conclude whether children will be offered a second dose as most rare side effects have been shown to emerge after the second dose.

“If ministers accept the advice, the medical officers will want the JCVI to give a view on second doses in this age cohort once more data has been accrued internationally,” the letter added. “This will not be before the spring term.”

The CMOs said ministers should engage experts from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of General Practitioners on how to approach the issue of consent from parents.


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