Healthy children aged 12 to 15 should be offered one dose of a Covid vaccine, the UK’s chief medical officers say.
The CMOs stated that it would aid in reducing disruption to education.
It comes after the government’s vaccine committee stated that there was not enough benefit to warrant it solely on health grounds, but that ministers could consider other factors.
Given that the virus was expected to spread over the winter, the CMOs concluded that this tipped the balance.
They said school closures were unlikely, but that disruption to face-to-face education was likely because people who tested positive had to isolate for 10 days.
It is now up to ministers to decide whether to accept the four CMOs’ recommendations.
If they agree, children will be offered the Pfizer jab.
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It will most likely be given in schools, and parental consent will not be required if the child is deemed competent to give consent.
The CMOs warned ministers in a letter that missing face-to-face school had a “massive impact” on children, both physically and emotionally, as well as in terms of their life chances.
The CMOs stated that it was impossible to quantify how much vaccination could help reduce this because the vaccines were less effective at preventing infection against the Delta variant of coronavirus than they were against previous variants.
However, they concluded that the benefits of reducing disruption and harm provided “sufficient additional benefit” to justify extending vaccination to healthy children in this age group.
They claimed that poorer children had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and would benefit the most from vaccination.
Children with medical conditions, as well as those living with clinically vulnerable people, have already been informed that they are eligible for the vaccine.
This represents approximately one-tenth of the three million children in this age group.
The JCVI, the government’s vaccine committee, made the decision in response to concerns about a small but increased risk of heart inflammation following vaccination.
They claimed that vaccination still provided a marginal benefit, but not enough to persuade them that a vaccination programme should be implemented.