FAQs about latest JCVI guidance on Covid-19 vaccines for children

8 mins read

Answers to your questions on recommendation on 19 July 2021 from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and government.

JCVI advice applies to England and Wales. The Scotland and Northern Ireland governments have confirmed they will follow JCVI advice too.

Read the latest JCVI guidance in full.

In this article

What is the JCVI saying?

Children aged 12 and over at increased risk of Covid-19 should now be offered the Pfizer vaccine, which the UK regulator said was safe and effective for this age group back in June.

This includes children aged 12 to 15 with severe neurodisabilities, Down syndrome, immunosuppression, profound and multiple or severe learning disabilities, or those who are on the Learning Disability Register.

The JCVI also recommends that children and young people aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person (adult or child) should be offered the vaccine.

Will all children aged 12 and over be able to get the Pfizer vaccine now?

No. The JCVI has only recommended that children aged 12-15 with severe neurodisabilities, Down syndrome, immunosuppression and profound and multiple or severe learning disabilities (some of which may be identified via the Learning Disability Register in England) should be offered the vaccine.

Under previous JCVI guidance,  young people aged 16-17 with underlying health conditions which put them at risk of serious Covid-19 should have already been offered the Pfizer vaccine. Young carers aged 16 and over are also eligible for the vaccine.

Young people within three months of their 18th birthday will now be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

The JCVI is not recommending routine vaccination outside of these age or risk groups.

So this does leave some gaps in eligibility for disabled children, and under-12s still can’t access the vaccine.

What is the government doing in response to the JCVI advice?

All UK governments have said they will follow the JCVI guidance. They are making plans to extend the vaccine programme to eligible children and are updating guidance. 

Read the letter from the National Director for the COVID Vaccine Programme at NHS England to all GPs and other health bodies: It says;

“Children will be offered a first dose vaccination before returning to school in September. Therefore, it is expected that first dose vaccinations for eligible children aged 12-15 to be operational from w/c 23 August at the latest with invitations issued in advance”.

For updated government guidance (called the Green Book):  COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

How and when will my child get offered a vaccine?

Each UK government is now making plans on how they will offer eligible children a vaccine.

We have been told by the NHS that eligible children will receive invitations from their GP or clinician over the coming weeks. If you haven’t heard anything before the 23 August you should contact your GP or clinician.

Read the letter from the National Director for the COVID Vaccine Programme at NHS England to all GPs and other health bodies

This letter sets out draft plans in Scotland COVID-19 vaccination programme: JCVI advice for vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 17 years (scot.nhs.uk)

We will update this page when we have more information

How many children will be offered a vaccine?

The JCVI estimates that around 37,000 children in England aged 12-15 fall under the health categories eligible for a vaccine. A further 114,000 children qualify on the basis of being “household contacts” to clinically extremely vulnerable people (adults or children).

Information on numbers on children eligible in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is currently not available.

Should I contact my child’s GP/clinician now?

The NHS have asked that families not to contact their GP or clinician yet. Eligible children will receive a vaccine invitation from their GP or clinician over the coming weeks.

If you haven’t heard anything before the 23 August you should contact your GP or clinician.

We understand that further delay will be frustrating and worrying for families. Please be reassured that we will continue to press government for further information.

Will I have to prove my child needs a vaccine?

No. We understand that the NHS will identify eligible children from data available on their health records, and health and social care services are encouraged to proactively flag eligible children in their database. Upcoming government guidance should provide more information. 

We will update this page when we know more.

Are they using the same definition of clinically extremely vulnerable for children asked to shield?

No. There may be some crossover with this list. The JCVI advice is that children aged 12 -15 and over with severe neurodisabilities, Down syndrome, immunosuppression and profound, multiple or severe learning disabilities (some of which may be identified via the Learning Disability Register in England).

The government’s expert advisers have previously recommended that clinically extremely vulnerable people aged 16 and over should be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

I’m not sure if my child falls into those categories.

The government will update the Green Book (Chapter 14a) guidance “very soon” on which children are eligible. Your child’s doctor, paediatrician or neurologist will play a part in interpreting Green Book guidance once it is published. 

How did the JCVI decide which children are eligible? 

The JCVI looked at a range of evidence, particularly from the United States and Israel. They will be keeping decisions under constant review based on new data from the UK and abroad, especially in the context of the Delta variant. 

Here are some of the studies used by the JCVI to decide which children are eligible for a vaccine: 

What happens if I want the vaccine for my child but they don’t fall into those categories?

Speak to your GP or clinician about this. They will be able to clarify the categories and whether or not your child falls into them. They can use their clinical judgement in interpreting Green Book guidance once it is published. 

How do I get my son or daughter on the learning disability register in England?

Anyone with a learning disability can be added to the register even if they do not have a formal diagnosis.  If it is unclear whether your son or daughter has a learning disability, the GP can assess them using this simple Learning Disability Register Inclusion Tool.

Our Annual Health Check factsheet has information on GP learning disability registers and annual health checks, why they are important and how you can support your child or young person to access the services they are entitled to.

Will accessible vaccine centres be available for my child?

NHS England has issued guidance to clinicians on making reasonable adjustments when giving COVID vaccination to people with learning disabilities. 

There are also vaccine clinics for people with learning disabilities, led by learning disability nurses. 

Has the government guidance (called the Green Book) been updated?

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination green book, chapter 14a, is being updated soon based on this latest  JCVI advice. 

You can see updates at: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

What should I do if my GP/clinicians refuses my child a vaccine?

Please email una.summerson@contact.org.uk.  We will collect issues and raise them with government officials.

You can also get in touch with our helpline on 0808 808 35555 or by emailing helpline@contact.org.uk.

My child is under 12. Can they get a vaccine?

No. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine that has been authorised for children aged 12 or older in the UK. This followed a US clinical trial of around 1,000 children aged 12 to 15 that found side effects in this group were generally short-lived and mild to moderate.

Until more safety data is available and has been evaluated, children under 12 will not be offered the vaccine.

What about children living in household with a clinically vulnerable person?

The JCVI advice is that children aged 12-17 that live in same household as an immunosuppressed person (adult or child) should have the Pfizer vaccine.

The government agrees, but we are unsure how these children will be identified and offered the vaccine. You should speak to their GP until we know more.

Does the JCVI guidance apply to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland too?

JCVI advice applies to England and Wales, and the Scotland and Northern Ireland governments have confirmed they will follow JCVI’s advice too.

Where can I read the guidance in full?

Read the latest JCVI guidance in full.

You can also read Minister Nadhim Zahawi’s Oral Statement on step 4 of the road map (www.gov.uk)