Last reviewed 10 August 2021

NHS England (NHSE) has instructed practices to begin vaccinating eligible 12- to 15-year-olds against Covid-19, while the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended on 4 August that all 16- to 17-year-olds should now be invited for a first dose of the vaccine.

Children aged 12 to 15 who are eligible include those with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as those in this age group who are household contacts of individuals who are immunosuppressed.

Vulnerable over-16s should already have been offered vaccination.

Public Health England (PHE) said the update in guidance was based on “more safety data becoming available” and “changes in the way Covid-19 has been spreading in the UK, particularly in younger age groups”.

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only Covid jab authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in 12- to 18-year-olds in the UK, although PHE has acknowledged that “some serious side effects have been reported” in the younger age group that were linked with the vaccine.

The JCVI’s review found myocarditis and pericarditis were “extremely rare and usually occur within a few days of the second dose, typically more in young men”. It said that because Covid-19 is “usually mild in younger people” it is “important to weigh up the benefits of any vaccine against the possible, although extremely rare, side effects”.

The JCVI announcement said, therefore: “prioritising the first dose and delaying the recommendation on the second, allows the JCVI to provide the best available advice with the latest available information for the second dose, whilst providing some immediate protection from severe disease.”

NHSE updated its Enhanced Service (ES) specification for phases one, two and three, prior to telling practices they can begin vaccinating these eligible patients “immediately” subject to meeting the requirements of the ES.

Meanwhile, drop-in vaccine clinics are beginning for 16- and 17-year-olds in Scotland, and the Scottish government confirmed all 16- to 17-year-olds will be offered a first dose by late September.

The JCVI statement on Covid-19 vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 17 years is available here.