Will 12-15 year olds get the Covid vaccine? Latest JCVI UK guidance for coronavirus jab in children

NHS organisations in England have been told to prepare for a possible extension of the Covid vaccination programme to all 12 to 15-year-olds

But will those aged 12 to 15 also receive the vaccine and when could this be?

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Here’s what you need to know.

Which groups of children are currently getting the vaccine?

Children living with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s syndrome and severely weakened immune systems as well as those living with vulnerable adults are already eligible for the vaccine.

This group amounts to around 150,000 children out of three million in this age group.

On 3 September, the The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced that it would widen this rollout to include those with chronic major heart, lung, kidney, liver and neurological conditions.

This means around 200,000 more children will be invited for vaccines.

The department had said it wanted to be “ready to hit the ground running”.

Will healthy 12 to 15-year-olds receive the Covid vaccine?

The UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) have said children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The decision takes into account the impact of the pandemic on children’s education as well as the risks to their mental health from missing school. It is expected the vaccinations will be given through schools.

The announcement means that around three million children could be eligible for the Covid jab and comes despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) deciding not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds.

The JVCI previously said that Covid presents a very low risk to healthy children, and the benefits of vaccinating them are only marginal in terms of their health.

However, the Committee suggested that the wider issues, such as education, should be taken into consideration and examined by CMOs.

The CMOs think a single Covid vaccination dose will significantly reduce the chance of a young person getting Covid and passing the virus on.

The CMOs have asked for the JCVI to now look at whether second doses should be given to children and young people aged 12 to 15 once more data comes through internationally, but this will not be before the spring term.

After seeking advice from a range of experts, including medical colleges, the CMOs said they consider education “one of the most important drivers of improved public health and mental health”.

They added: “The effects of disrupted education, or uncertainty, on mental health are well recognised.

“There can be lifelong effects on health if extended disruption to education leads to reduced life chances.

“Whilst full closures of schools due to lockdowns is much less likely to be necessary in the next stages of the Covid-19 epidemic, UK CMOs expect the epidemic to continue to be prolonged and unpredictable.

“Local surges of infection, including in schools, should be anticipated for some time. Where they occur, they are likely to be disruptive.”

Are other countries vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds?

The US, Canada, France and the Netherlands are among the countries that are currently vaccinating children aged 12 and over.

Can 16 and 17-year-olds get the vaccine?

The government announced in early August that all 16 and 17-year-olds in England were to be offered their first Covid vaccine dose - or the chance to book one - by 23 August.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said offering vaccines by this date would allow teenagers to get some protection before starting school or college in September.

However, unlike older age groups no second dose is currently being scheduled.

Those aged 16 and 17 in England will be invited by text or letter to get vaccinated either by making an appointment through GPs or by going to a walk-in centre.

Invites are also now being sent out in Wales and those in this age group in Scotland  can register their interest online.

In Northern Ireland, walk-in centres for Covid vaccinations are now open to older teenagers.

How effective are the Covid jabs?

Recent analysis from the Zoe Covid study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was found to be 88% effective at preventing Covid-19 infection a month after the second dose, but this decreased to 74% after five to six months.

Protection from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was found to fall to 77% just one month after the second dose, which then decreased to 67% after four to five months.

At the beginning of August, Moderna - which is also being administered in the UK - said its Covid jab was about 93% effective through six months after the second dose, which shows little change from the 94% efficacy reported in its original clinical trial.