Last reviewed 27 July 2021

New advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is that children aged 12 to 15 who are deemed at increased risk of serious Covid-19 disease should be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

In view of the progress in offering Covid-19 vaccination to all adults, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) asked the JCVI for advice on a possible extension of the vaccination programme to children and young people. The JCVI’s report sets out its considerations and advice.

It said that from 19 July 2021, children at increased risk of serious Covid-19 disease should be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Children aged 12 to 15 who should be offered vaccinations include those with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression, profound and multiple or severe learning disabilities and those who are on the learning disability register.

Children aged 12 to 17 who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed will also be offered vaccination to achieve “indirect protection”.

All those aged 17 will be offered the vaccine within three months of their eighteenth birthday.

The JCVI is “not currently advising” routine mass vaccination for the under-18s, a decision based on current evidence, but will keep data on the age group “under review” over the next few weeks.

The JCVI statement said: “At this time, JCVI is of the view that the health benefits of universal vaccination in children and young people below the age of 18 years do not outweigh the potential risks.”

Announcing the new guidance, Public Health England (PHE) said the evidence showed that “Covid-19 rarely causes severe disease in children without underlying health conditions”, so at this time the JCVI’s view is that “the minimal health benefits of offering universal Covid-19 vaccination to children do not outweigh the potential risks”.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said he accepted the JCVI’s advice and asked the NHS to start vaccinating the new group “as soon as possible”.

Pulse magazine reported that the JCVI expects GPs will be asked to identify children who should have the vaccine and seek consent from both the child and parent before giving them the jab.

Young people aged 16 to 17 with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious Covid should have already been offered vaccination in line with existing guidance.

PHE’s announcement is available here.