COVID-19 vaccination for children and young people

On 19 July 2021, Ministers in each of the UK’s governments announced that they had accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on COVID-19 vaccination in children and young people aged 12 to 17 years.

Updated: 20 July 2021

What has JCVI advised about extending COVID-19 vaccinations to children and young people?

JCVI has advised ministers that the following groups should be offered Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. This is the only vaccine authorised by the MHRA for 12-17 year olds in the UK.

  • 12-15 year olds who are increased risk of serious COVID-19 disease and hospitalisation in the following groups: 
    • Those with severe neuro-disabilities
    • Those with immunosuppression
    • Those with Down Syndrome
    • Those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities, or on GP the learning disability register 
  • 12-17 year olds who are household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed
  • Those turning 18 in the next three months

These groups are in addition to those JCVI prioritised in earlier phases of the vaccination programme, i.e. those who are 16 years and over in an at-risk group (as defined by Table 3 of the Green Book).

We do not yet know the detailed clinical codes and eligible diagnoses of the groups identified by JCVI. These will be published in updates to the Green Book

When will those who are now eligible be able to get their first vaccination?

We don’t know. While the advice to Ministers has been accepted, no details have been provided about when and where vaccines will be available for eligible children and young people. 

The Governments and NHS vaccine programmes urgently need to provide clear and consistent information for children and young people, families and clinicians about these next steps: where, when and who will deliver these vaccinations?

What information will be provided to children, young people and their families about this?

Information about the vaccine, its safety and side effects will be published by Public Health England.

We would expect this to cover all the details needed to ensure a young person can give informed consent. For those in the second group above - household contacts of a person who is immunosuppressed - vaccination should be offered on the understanding that the main benefits are related to the potential for indirect protection of that household contact.

What information will be available to support healthcare professionals?

The Green Book will be updated imminently around the clinical criteria included in this phase of the vaccination programme, the evidence base and potential safety and side effects. This information should support clinicians discuss risks and benefits of vaccination with children, young people and their families.

My 12 year old is clinically extremely vulnerable but isn’t eligible for the vaccine. Why is that?

Identification of clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people was done early in the pandemic, based on clinical expertise and experience, and erred on the side of caution. The priority for the vaccination programme is to prevent hospitalisations for severe disease and death.

JCVI has reviewed evidence and data from earlier periods of the pandemic to see who was at risk of hospitalisation with severe COVID illness and used this to inform their advice about where a vaccine can be most effective. JCVI’s advice indicates that the Government are currently reviewing the risk of COVID-19 in children and young people considered clinically extremely vulnerable, and this review will inform further guidance.

What about other children and young people not covered by this advice?

Most children are at minimal risk of being made seriously ill by COVID-19. Having looked at the available international data, and considered the direct and indirect benefits (such as education), the JCVI 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. It has decided that for children who are otherwise healthy, the risk is not outweighed by the benefit.

JCVI has said it will continue to review evidence from around the world on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, and whether this changes its view on the balance of risk and benefits.

Does the JCVI advice allow for any unlicensed or off-label use in those under 12 years? 

JCVI has reiterated that there is no rationale for off label or unlicensed use of the vaccine in under 12s and that only authorised vaccines should be offered to those under 18 years. 

Latest updates to this page

  • Updates in this version (20 July) - updated to reflect JCVI advice regarding vaccinating children and young people.
  • Updates in version (6 July) – statement updated to reflect MHRA emergency authorisation of Pfizer/BioNTech for 12-15 year olds.
  • Updates in version (21 May 2021) - Statement updated to address current frequently asked questions