All UK children aged 12-15 to be offered Covid vaccine
4 mins read
Monday 13 September 2021
All children aged 12 to 15 in the UK will be offered the Covid vaccine in an effort to minimise disruption in schools linked to local surges of infection, the government has confirmed.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had concluded earlier this month that the health benefits of vaccinating this age group outweigh the risks, but it stopped short of recommending it to all children because the margin of benefit is slim.
The committee then asked the UK’s four chief medical officers to analyse this from a wider perspective, such as the effects on education and school absence — something which the JCVI is not qualified to consider. Today, they concluded that the likely benefits of reducing educational disruption did merit a widespread vaccination roll-out.
Government ministers in all UK nations have accepted their advice and guaranteed that the NHS “stands ready to move forward with rolling out the vaccine to this group with the same sense of urgency we’ve had at every point in our vaccination programme.”
When and where will children get the jab?
There will be a staggered offer of vaccines starting from next week until October half term.
Healthy children aged 12 to 15 will primarily receive their jab in their school, including special schools. Whilst schools will provide the space, the vaccines will be given by the school age immunisations providers or a health professional.
There will be a ‘mop up’ offer to those not in school on the day the vaccine is given. This is likely to happen in non-school settings, such as at a local vaccination centre or GP setting.
There will be alternative provision for those who are home schooled, in secure services or specialist mental health settings. The school age immunisations providers are also responsible for ensuring an offer of a vaccine to those children not in school, e.g. because they are home educated.
What’s the dosage?
In a letter to health secretary Sajid Javid, the chief medical officers recommended that ministers extend the current offer of a first dose the Pfizer vaccine to all children aged 12-15 immediately. There will be a possibility of a second dose in the spring school term or later, once more international data is available.
Children who are considered at risk due to underlying health conditions or immunosuppression should be offered two doses of Pfizer at least 8 weeks apart. This dosage recommendation extends to the 200,000 extra children identified as eligible by the JCVI earlier this month. In total, 350,000 children in England are eligible for two doses.
Covid-19 vaccines are not mandatory. Parents and children will be supported in their decision of whether to accept a jab or not.
Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by vaccination healthcare staff in line with existing school vaccination programmes. School age immunisation providers or health professionals will be responsible for seeking consent and helping families make a decision. This is a well-established process that is already in place for other school-based immunisation programmes.
In their letter, the chief medical officers also emphasised the importance of taking the risk-benefit ratio into account when considering consent.
“A child-centred approach to communication and deployment of the vaccine should be the primary objective,” they wrote. “It is essential that children and young people aged 12-15 and their parents are supported in their decisions, whatever decisions they take, and are not stigmatised either for accepting, or not accepting, the vaccination offer. Individual choice should be respected.”