Children aged 12-15 should be offered a COVID vaccine, the UK’s chief medical officers (CMOs) have decided
The move means around three million children aged 12-15 could be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, which is expected to be administered through schools, while ongoing concerns that there will be a rise in cases of the virus following the summer holidays.
Children aged 12-15 should be offered a COVID-19 vaccine, the UK’s chief medical officers (CMOs) have decided.
The medical officers have said that their recommendation to the UK government was made after considering “what effect this will have on transmission in schools and effects on education”.
“It’s a useful tool to reduce the disruption,” they said.
Healthy children should be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the rollout should begin “as soon as possible”, they added.
The move means around three million children aged 12-15 could be eligible for the jab, which is expected to be given through schools.
The government has confirmed it will “set out” its decision “shortly” following the recommendation.
In their advice to the UK government, the CMOS said that they were recommending the vaccines on “public health grounds” and said that it was “likely vaccination will help reduce transmission of COVID-19 in schools”.
This comes after COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children between the ages of 12 and 15 are not being recommended by the UK’s vaccine advisory body, but the country’s four chief medical officers are currently reviewing this matter further.
They added: “COVID-19 is a disease that can be transmitted effectively by mass spreading events, especially with Delta variant.
“Having a significant proportion of pupils vaccinated is likely to reduce the probability of such events which are likely to cause local outbreaks in, or associated with, schools.
“They will also reduce the chance an individual child gets COVID-19. This means vaccination is likely to reduce (but not eliminate) education disruption.”
The CMOS have asked for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to look at whether second doses should be given to those aged 12 to 15 once more data comes through internationally.
This will not be before the spring term.
The CMOS think a single dose will significantly reduce the chance of a young person getting COVID and passing the virus on.
After seeking advice from a range of experts, including medical colleges, the CMOS said they consider education “one of the most important drivers of improved public health and mental health”.
But the CMOs added: “Local surges of infection, including in schools, should be anticipated for some time. Where they occur, they are likely to be disruptive.”
The NHS in England had already been asked to prepare to roll out vaccines for all 12 to 15-year-olds in the event the CMOS recommended the programme.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have received advice from the four UK chief medical officers on offering COVID-19 vaccination to young people aged 12-15.
“We will set out the government’s decision shortly.”
It comes following a review by the four CMOs of the decision by the JCVI not to advise the move.
Last week, the JCVI said it would not be recommending giving COVID vaccines to children aged 12 to 15 on health grounds alone.
This comes after services may be cut unless NHS England receives an extra £10bn in funding next year, groups representing the service have warned. The NHS Confederation, as well as NHS Providers have said that the money was needed to cover pandemic-related costs.
Children recently returned to school, and there are concerns of a rise in cases following the summer holidays.
The JCVI advised the government to look at “wider issues” – including the impact on schooling – when making the final decision.
The independent regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for those aged 12 and over after ruling they met strict standards of safety and effectiveness.
The JCVI said the “individual” health benefits from vaccination for children aged 12 to 15 was small in its advisory report.
The risk of potentially serious side effects – including myocarditis – is “very rare, but potentially serious”.
The Department of Health and Social care previously said that parent or carer consent will be sought like other school vaccination programmes.