Last reviewed 14 September 2021

The UK's four chief medical officers (CMOs) have said healthy children aged 12 to 15 should be offered one dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

Children with health conditions and those living with clinically vulnerable people have already been told they can have the vaccine and are being offered two doses.

The recommendation comes after the Government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said there was not enough benefit to warrant it on health grounds alone but that ministers could take into account other factors.

CMO Professor Chris Whitty said they looked at education and “operational issues”, such as any possible negative impact on other vaccine programmes, when making their decision and had heard some "extremely powerful evidence" from colleagues around the country.

The CMOs said it was not possible to quantify with confidence the extent to which vaccination would reduce school disruption but agreed that, "on balance", the benefits in reducing disruption and the harm it caused, including to mental health, provided "sufficient extra advantage" to warrant extending vaccination to healthy children in this age group.

Chris Whitty stressed that the balance of benefit versus risk of vaccination for this age group was more finely balanced than in older age groups and said it would be “very important” that this is “communicated fairly and properly to children, young people and their parents so that they can make a considered decision”.

The CMOs revealed modelling which, based on assumptions on uptake of the vaccine and spread of the virus, suggested 30,000 infections could be prevented, saving 110,000 days of missed face-to-face schooling; or one day for every 20 pupils.

They said children living in poorer areas, who had been hit hardest by the pandemic and missed more school, could gain the most from vaccination.

The recommendation to offer only one dose is related to the very rare risk of myocarditis. The CMOs said this could be looked at again in the Spring.

It will be for ministers in the four UK nations to decide whether to accept the recommendation of the UK’s four CMOs.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health welcomed the move but said that vaccination on its own would not improve attendance at school.