14 September 2021
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recently reviewed the Covid-19 vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 15 and found only marginal benefits in including this group in the programme.
As it had been asked to consider only the health implications, however, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that he would be referring the matter to the UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), asking them to take into account wider societal impacts of vaccination, including educational benefits for the young people concerned.
The CMOs have now responded in a detailed letter available, with several other relevant documents, here.
In short, they have recommended that healthy children aged 12 to 15 should be offered one dose of a Covid vaccine.
“Evidence from clinical and public health colleagues, general practice, child health and mental health consistently makes clear the massive impact that absent, or disrupted, face-to-face education has had on the welfare and mental health of many children and young people,” the letter notes in its explanation.
The final decision now rests with the Government as to whether to accept the recommendation of the four CMOs. If the decision is to go ahead then children will be offered the Pfizer vaccine, assuming parental consent.
The CMOs’ letter states: “It is essential that children and young people aged 12 to 15 and their parents are supported in their decisions, whatever decisions they take, and are not stigmatised either for accepting, or not accepting, the vaccination offer. Individual choice should be respected.”
The JCVI had warned of the slight risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, with the possibility of between three and 17 cases per one million first doses given to this age group.
That risk rises to between 12 and 34 per million if a second dose is given, without any significant increase in efficacy — which is why a single dose is being recommended.
The CMOs have suggested that this point could be readdressed in the spring of 2022 when more data will be available.