The UK government alongside the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly have confirmed it will seek further advice from the four Chief Medical Officers on the COVID-19 vaccination of young people aged 12 to 15 with COVID-19 vaccines, following the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
The JCVI has advised that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms. It has advised the government to seek further input from the Chief Medical Officers on the wider impacts.
This includes the impact on schools and young people’s education, which has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
UK health ministers from across the four nations have today written to the Chief Medical Officers to request they begin the process of assessing the broader impact of universal COVID-19 vaccination in this age group.
They will now convene experts and senior leaders in clinical and public health to consider the issue. They will then present their advice to ministers on whether a universal programme should be taken forward.
People aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 or who live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from the virus are already eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and are being contacted by the NHS, to be invited to come forward.
The JCVI has advised that this offer should be expanded to include more children aged 12 to 15, for example those with sickle cell disease or type 1 diabetes.
Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann: “I welcome the extension of the vaccination programme to include a wider group of children aged 12-15 years of age with underlying medical conditions. The importance of vaccination is evident and I would urge those who are eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible to help protect themselves and those around them.
“I am also grateful for the JCVI advice on 12-15 year olds and agree that this issue warrants further consideration. It is entirely appropriate that our most senior medical advisers take forward this piece of work urgently. I look forward to seeing their considerations in the near future.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:
“Our COVID-19 vaccines have brought a wide range of benefits to the country, from saving lives and preventing hospitalisations, to helping stop infections and allowing children to return to school.
“I am grateful for the expert advice that I have received from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
“People aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to the virus have already been offered a COVID-19 vaccine, and today we’ll be expanding the offer to those with conditions such as sickle cell disease or type 1 diabetes to protect even more vulnerable children.
“Along with Health Ministers across the four nations, I have today written to the Chief Medical Officers to ask that they consider the vaccination of 12 to 15 year olds from a broader perspective, as suggested by the JCVI.
“We will then consider the advice from the Chief Medical Officers, building on the advice from the JCVI, before making a decision shortly.”