Covid-19 vaccines for healthy children have been approved by the UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs).
The decision means that around three million children aged 12 to 15 will be eligible for a first vaccine dose, despite the government’s advisory body choosing not to endorse the policy.
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The CMOs advised that children aged in this age group should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, with the recommendation taking into account the impact of the pandemic on youngster’s education, as well as the effects on their mental health from missing school.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) opted against backing the move, stating that as coronavirus presents such a low risk to younger teenagers the benefits would only be marginal.
However, the CMOs were asked to assess the societal benefit of vaccinating this age group in spite of the JCVI’s recommendation, including the impact the pandemic has had on education.
In their advice to the government, they recommended the vaccines on “public health grounds” and said it is “likely vaccination will help reduce transmission of Covid-19 in schools”.
It is expected that the vaccinations will be given through schools.
Parents ‘aghast’ at the plans
The CMOs believe that offering a single vaccine dose to 12 to 15-year-olds will significantly reduce their risk of getting coronavirus and passing it on to others.
However, parents have expressed concerns over the plans, particularly in light of the JCVI advising against a mass rollout.
Gill Fraser, 42, from Stirling, Scotland has a 13 year old daughter and said she is “aghast” at the plans, stating the risk of offering youngsters the jab “is not worth it”.
She said: “I am aghast at the proposal for vaccinating teens in the UK. What the JCVI said last week cemented my pre-existing views: the risk is not worth it.
“I have always viewed children as to be taken care of by adults and it’s clear that this is being reversed.
“We know that hundreds of children will suffer myocarditis from this vaccine, and if this goes ahead we do not know what that means for these children longer term. It is often described as "mild" but we simply do not know.
“I often read that "there is no mechanism by which these vaccines could cause long term harm" which I don’t think can be said for this new type of vaccine and with children, it is imperative to be absolutely clear on the risks to them.
“We know the risks to healthy children are very low. We know that many children have had Covid. Crucially, we are now seeing evidence that natural immunity is likely to be longer lasting and superior to future variants.
“I am devastated at the route that is being taken by this government. It shall be judged harshly.
“My daughter shall not be receiving the vaccine.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has previously said that parents of children aged 12 to 15 will be asked to give their consent for youngsters to get the jab.
However, he later added that under 16s could override their parents’ wishes in some cases, if they are deemed “competent to make that decision, with all the information available”.
Sarah Clark, from Leeds, who has two children aged 13 and 15, said she is concerned over the plans and while still undecided whether to allow her kids to have the jab, she would not be happy for them to make this decision on their own.
She explained: “My husband is a definite yes. His view is that they’ve had every other vaccination that has been offered.
“Initially I felt the same but having heard and read more, I am still undecided.
“I have quite a few medical friends and neighbours, some with similar aged children, so I want to see what they recommend, and are doing, first.
“I think parents should have the opportunity to choose, but I am not convinced it is completely necessary if children do not live with vulnerable people, or are not vulnerable themselves.
“I don’t think children should make this decision on their own - they’re too easily influenced by friends and social media!”
Will children be given a second dose?
The CMOs have asked the JCVI to assess whether second doses should be given to children in this age group once more data comes through internationally, although this will not be before the spring term.
It is believed that a single dose alone will significantly reduce the risks of young people getting the virus and passing it on.
In their advice, the CMOs said: “Covid-19 is a disease which can be very effectively transmitted by mass spreading events, especially with the 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.”
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