Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said clinical trials had shown the vaccine was safe and effective in those aged 12-15 and the benefits outweigh any risk. It has already been approved for those 16 and over. She added: “It will now be for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to advise on whether this age group will be vaccinated.” Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Commission on Human Medicines, said: “Over 2,000 children aged 12-15 years were studied as part of the randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials. There were no cases of Covid-19 from seven days after the second dose in the vaccinated group, compared with 16 cases in the placebo group.
“In addition, data on neutralising antibodies showed the vaccine working at the same level as seen in adults aged 16-25 years.”
Experts yesterday said there were a number of ethical factors to consider. Adam Finn, a member of the committee and professor of paediatrics at Bristol University, said the key question was whether children need to be vaccinated to protect them from infection and prevent further disruption to their education and social development.
He said: “In the short term giving available vaccine doses to children would mean diverting them from adults who are at higher personal risk and who probably represent a higher onward transmission risk.
“As the vaccine is now being widely used in the USA in teenagers, we can expect to receive a lot more information on safety from there soon.”
Some experts have said it would be unethical to vaccinate children in wealthy countries while healthcare workers and vulnerable groups had not received jabs in other nations.
Dr Kate O’Brien, the World Health Organisation’s top vaccines expert, said: “Children are at very, very low risk.”
Dominic Wilkinson, professor of medical ethics at the University of Oxford, said: “Ninety-nine percent of Covid deaths occur in adults over the age of 55 and those people with other underlying illness.”
The Department of Health said: “We will be guided by the expert advisers.”