LONDON: The UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) will provide further advice on COVID-19 vaccination of young people aged between 12 to 15 years after the government’s vaccine advisory body on Friday did not give its green light for vaccinating those falling in the age group on health grounds.
The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) concluded that the benefits are insufficient to support a universal offer of mass COVID vaccinations for all healthy children in this age group.
However, it has recommended that an even wider group of 12 to 15-year-olds with underlying health conditions should be given the COVID jab.
“The JCVI’s view is that overall, the health benefits from COVID-19 vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years are marginally greater than the potential harms,” said Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 Immunisation for the JCVI.
“Taking a precautionary approach, this margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal COVID-19 vaccination for this age group at this time,” he said.
COVID-19 vaccinations in the UK are currently being offered to all adults aged 16 and over, with the JCVI tasked with looking at expanding this cohort.
It said that as its advice focussed on the narrow health parameters, the government could consider wider societal impact such as disruption to schools.
Therefore, the CMOs have been tasked with the process of assessing the broader impact of universal COVID-19 vaccination in this age group. They will now convene experts and senior leaders in clinical and public health to consider the issue and present their advice to ministers on whether a universal programme should be taken forward.
Our COVID-19 vaccines have brought a wide range of benefits to the country, from saving lives and preventing hospitalisations, to helping stop infections and allowing children to return to school, said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
People aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to the virus have already been offered a COVID-19 vaccine, and today we’ll be expanding the offer to those with conditions such as sickle cell disease or type 1 diabetes to protect even more vulnerable children, he said.
Javid has joined the health ministers from across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to write to the CMOs of all devolved regions of the United Kingdom to ask that they consider the vaccination of 12 to 15 year olds from a broader perspective, as suggested by the JCVI.
The UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for people aged 12 and over.
Following this, the JCVI concluded that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms and therefore advised the government to seek further input. This includes the impact on schools and young people’s education, which has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, an extra 200,000 teenagers with underlying conditions will now be eligible for two doses. Doctors identified that children with chronic heart, lung and liver conditions were at much higher risk of COVID than healthy children.
A group of 150,000 children with conditions such as severe neurodisabilities, Down’s syndrome and severely weakened immune systems as well as those living with vulnerable adults are already eligible.
The JCVI decision on healthy children was based on concern over an extremely rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine which causes heart inflammation. But as children are at such low risk from the virus, it concluded that vaccination would offer only “marginal gain” in this younger age group.
Source: Press Trust of India