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Vaccines Minister Nadim Zahawi has confirmed when 12 to 15 year olds will get the Covid vaccine.
Ministers have considered vaccinating children for some months now. But it’s only in the last week that the UK’s medical experts confirmed vaccinations for some children and young people. It comes as England is now officially out of lockdown. The government has lifted most social restrictions, including the requirement for face coverings in some indoor spaces.
Many fear that in lifting the restrictions, vulnerable people will again face a high level of risk from the virus. It’s with this in mind that the medical experts advising the government made their decision.
When will 12 to 15 year olds get the Covid vaccine?
The NHS will offer the vaccine “as soon as possible” to eligible children between 12 and 15 years old.
They only intend to offer the jab to children in this age group who are at risk from the virus. This includes children who have:
- A severe neurodisability
- Down’s syndrome
- A severely weakened immune system, including some children with cancer
- Profound and multiple learning disabilities
Some healthy children over 12 who live with vulnerable people can also have the vaccine if they choose to. As can those teenagers “on the cusp” of turning 18 years old.
In total, the NHS will offer around 370,000 children a double dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Vaccines Minister Nadim Zahawi said, “I know that people will have questions about what it means for them and their children, but I can assure them that nobody needs to come forward at this stage – the NHS will get in touch with them at the right time and they will make sure that the jabs are delivered in a setting that meets their complex needs.
“We will also ask the JVCI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) to consider rolling out vaccines to all children and young people over the age of 12 and although we are not taking this step today, the JVCI is keeping this matter under review and they will be looking at more data as it becomes available – especially on children with a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.”
While Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that he had asked the NHS to prepare vaccinations for eligible children “as soon as possible”.
He added: “Our independent medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people aged 12 and over as it meets their robust standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.
Will all 12 to 15 year olds get the Covid vaccine?
The JVCI does not recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at this point in time.
This is because “evidence shows that Covid-19 rarely causes severe disease in children without underlying health conditions”. They also said that the “minimal health benefits of offering universal Covid-19 vaccination to children do not outweigh the potential risks”.
They will however, will continue to review new data, and consider whether to recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at a future date.
But this move by the British government differs greatly from other countries. Many around the world, including the US and Canada, have vaccinated all children aged between 12 and 17 years.
This news also comes as many younger people aged 18 and over are seeking to get their second Covid vaccine early. With those who can prove a double vaccination allowed to travel to amber list countries without quarantining on their way home, the demand for a speedy second jab has increased.
When did the MHRA approve the vaccine for this age group?
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds in June 2021. Following advice from the JCVI, the government have now confirmed that they will offer the vaccine to children in this age group.
In December, the regulatory body approved the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 and 17 years old. At the time, the JCVI advised that 16 to 18 year olds in the priority Phase 1 group have a vaccination. Those living in a household with someone who has a suppressed immune system were also eligible.
The regulatory body said the vaccine was safe to use in these age groups. They also said the benefits outweighed any risks when it came to vulnerable teenagers.
This statement followed a “rigorous review” of the safety and quality of the jab in those under 16 years old by the MHRA and the government’s own independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM).
“No extension to an authorisation would be approved unless the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met,” Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said in a statement.
In March, Pfizer published their own research on the effects of the vaccine on those in the 12 to 15 age group. They also suggested that the vaccine was highly effective (up to 100%) and produced “robust antibody responses”.
These results were better than those of a trial of 16-15 year old participants in an earlier analysis”. The vaccine was also “well tolerated” in this lower age group.