UNITED KINGDOM: 12 to 15-year-olds in the U.K. should be offered one dose of a Covid vaccine, the U.K.’s chief medical officers (CMOs) have said.
The CMOs said it would help reduce disruption to education as the decision takes into account the impact of the pandemic on children’s education as well as the risks to their mental health from missing school.
The move means that around three million children could be eligible for the jab and comes despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) deciding not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds. The JCVI said Covid-19 presents a very low risk for healthy children and vaccination would only offer a marginal benefit.
However, the vaccine committee said ministers could take into account other factors, such as education.
In their advice to the Government, the U.K.’s CMOs said they were recommending vaccines on “public health grounds” and it was “likely vaccination will help reduce transmission of Covid-19 in schools”.
They added: “Covid-19 is a disease which can be very effectively transmitted 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.”
The recommendation that only one dose be given – which the CMOs said could be looked at again in the spring – is related to the very rare risk of a condition called myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, but cases are usually mild and children recover quickly with standard treatment.
The risk is tiny after one vaccine dose and slightly higher after two, with 12 to 34 cases seen for every one million second doses.
And most of the benefits from the vaccine, which reduce the small risk of illness, are gained after one.
The CMOs have asked for the JCVI now to consider a second dose for children aged 12 to 15 once more data comes through internationally.
It will now be up to ministers in the four U.K. nations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) to decide whether to accept the recommendation of the four CMOs.
On agreement, children will be offered the Pfizer jab.
The vaccine is likely to be given in schools and parents will be asked to give consent.
Children aged over 12 with health conditions and those living with clinically vulnerable people have already been told they can get the vaccine – and are being offered two doses.