The decision to vaccinate children aged 12 to 15 has been a flashpoint throughout the pandemic. Now it looks like the decision has been settled. The four chief medical officers for the UK have recommended that all children aged 12 to 15 years old should be offered one dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine.
The UK Government will shortly set out its decision on whether to routinely vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds against coronavirus after it was recommended by the four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson says.
The government is expected to follow the advice, which means about three million children could be eligible for the jab.
It is expected the vaccinations will be given through schools.
The CMOs have asked for the JCVI now to look at whether second doses should be given to children and young people aged 12 to 15 once more data comes through internationally.
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The CMOs concluded that a single dose will slash the chance of a young person getting Covid and passing the virus on.
The NHS in England had already been asked to prepare to roll out vaccines for all 12 to 15-year-olds in the event that the CMOs recommended the programme.
The decision is likely to spark a backlash amongst parents, many of whom are concerned about the health implications of vaccinating their children.
It comes after different a verdict was reached by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) last week.
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The JCVI reviewed the evidence on vaccinating children aged 12 to 15 who do not have underlying health conditions that put them at increased risk from severe COVID-19.
The assessment by the JCVI is that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms.
However, the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15 year olds at this time, the health body said.
The government may wish to seek further views on the wider societal and educational impacts from the Chief Medical Officers of the UK four nations, it said at the time.
The recommendation given by the chief medical officers could result in around three million children being offered the jab.
The vaccination campaign is expected to be given through schools, amid ongoing concerns about a surge in cases as the school term gets underway.
England’s Professor Chris Whitty said they came to their decision after considering “what effect this will have on transmission in schools and effects on education”.
“It’s a useful tool to reduce the disruption,” he added.
They will be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the rollout should begin “as soon as possible”, England’s deputy CMO Jonathan Van-Tam said.
In their advice to the government, the 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.
“They will also reduce the chance an individual child gets COVID-19. This means vaccination is likely to reduce (but not eliminate) education disruption.”