The Minister of Vaccines told MPs that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JVCI) recommended that children “at increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease” be offered the coronavirus vaccine, and that the government heed this advice.
This means that children aged 12 to 15 with severe neurological disorders, Down syndrome, immunosuppression, and multiple or severe learning disabilities will be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Children of the same age group who live with an immunocompromised person will also be offered the vaccine, Zahawi said.
But the government will not offer all healthy teens a coronavirus vaccine just yet because JVCI does not advise it.
The JVCI said it made the decision because “the evidence shows that COVID-19 rarely causes serious illness in children without underlying health problems” and that “the minimal health benefits of providing the universal COVID-19 vaccination to children does not outweigh the potential risks ”.
However, healthy children who are within three months of their 18th birthday will be allowed to receive the vaccine “to ensure proper absorption in 18-year-olds.”
Newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid said JVCI “will consider whether to recommend immunization of under 18s without underlying health issues at a future date.”
JVCI had considered whether children should be vaccinated and recently gave advice on the matter to the government for ministers to consider.
The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency last month approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds.
The jab was approved for use in the UK for 16 and 17 year olds in December.
The current advice from JCVI is that people aged 16 to 18 should be offered vaccination if they are in a priority phase 1 group or if they are household contacts of an immunocompromised person.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Zahawi said the government would accept JVCI’s recommendations.
‘I know people will have questions about what this means for them and their children, but I can assure them that no one needs to come forward at this point – the NHS will contact them at the right time and they will make sure that jabs are delivered in a frame that meets their complex needs.
“We will also be asking JVCI to consider rolling out vaccines for all children and youth over 12 years old and while we are not taking this step today, JVCI is keeping this issue under review and they will be looking into more. more data as it becomes available – particularly on children with a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. “
In a statement, Mr Javid added that he had asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate eligible vulnerable children “as soon as possible”.
“Today’s advice from the Independent Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) means that young people most vulnerable and most exposed to this virus can now benefit from COVID-19 vaccines,” he said. declared.
“I accepted their expert recommendations and asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate eligible people as soon as possible.
“Young people aged 12 to 15 with severe neurological disorders, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as people who are household contacts of immunocompromised individuals, will soon be eligible for the vaccination.
“Our independent drug regulator, the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency, has approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for people 12 years of age and older because it meets their stringent safety standards, d efficiency and quality.
“Today’s advice does not recommend vaccinating anyone under the age of 18 without underlying health issues at this time. But the JCVI will continue to review new data and consider whether to recommend immunization for under-18s without underlying health issues at a future date.
“COVID-19 vaccines have saved nearly 37,000 lives and prevented around 11.7 million infections in England alone. They build a wall of defense and are the best way to protect people from serious illness. I encourage everyone who is eligible to receive their vaccine as soon as they can. “
Professor Anthony Harnden, vice president of JCVI, said the health benefits of immunizing all children are “small”.
“The main goal of the vaccination program has always been to prevent hospitalizations and deaths,” he said in a statement.
“Based on the fact that previously healthy children, if they contract COVID-19, are likely to have a very mild form of the disease, the health benefits of vaccinating them are low.
“The benefits of reducing transmission to the general population from children are also very uncertain, especially since vaccination is very high in the elderly who are most at risk of severe infection with the disease. COVID-19.
“We will keep this advisory under review as more information on safety and efficacy becomes available. “
A member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) told Sky News last month that whether or not children should be vaccinated against COVID is a “really close”.
Calum Semple, professor of child health and epidemic medicine at the University of Liverpool, said children were “at a much lower risk of serious illness”.
He said if a decision was made to vaccinate them against COVID-19, it would be to “reduce transmission in the community, rather than primarily to protect them.”