The Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) has deliberated on an extremely complex issue and we are grateful for their expertise and the many hours that members of the committee have given to these difficult questions.
We are very pleased that all four UK Governments have now accepted the advice of this expert group (which contains a number of paediatricians) - advice which was made available to Government some weeks ago.
The JCVI advice reiterates what the evidence tells us - that most children are at minimal risk of being made seriously ill by COVID. Having looked at the available national and international data, the Committee has weighed in the balance the benefit to children over 12 of being vaccinated, against the very small but important risk of potential side effects from the vaccine. They have decided that for children who are otherwise healthy, the risk is not outweighed by the benefit.
The Committee has, however, specified that some specific groups of children and young people aged 12 and over are at increased risk of hospitalisation from COVID and have recommended that these children be offered the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the only vaccine authorised by the MHRA for 12-17-year-olds in the UK. Clarity and more detail about who exactly will be included in these groups is required as a matter of urgency both for families and also for paediatricians and primary care professionals who will inevitably be asked for advice from patients and their parents or carers.
The JCVI has also noted that some children and young people, although not in these at-risk groups, may wish to have the vaccine in order to protect household members who are immune-suppressed. Provided they have proper information to make a decision, we believe children’s wishes to protect those with whom they live, should be listened to and respected.
It is extremely important that as many adults as possible are vaccinated and it is good to see the addition to the vaccination programme of those who will turn 18 in the next three months.
Governments and the NHS must move quickly to ensure that much needed guidance, information and resources are made available to professionals, patients, parents or carers, so that there is informed implementation of this next stage of the vaccination programme.
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