Covid: One shot recommended for 12-15 year olds by UK’s top doctors

Healthy children aged 12 to 15 should be offered one dose of a Covid vaccine, the UK’s chief medical officers say.

The CMOs said it would help reduce disruption to education.

It comes after the government’s vaccine committee said there was not enough benefit to warrant it on health grounds alone – but they said ministers could take into account other factors.

The CMOs concluded this tipped the balance given the virus was going to keep spreading over winter.

They said closures of schools were unlikely, but disruption to face-to-face education was likely since pupils and teachers who test positive have to isolate for 10 days.

In a letter to ministers, the CMOs warned missing face-to-face school had a “massive impact” on children, both physically, emotional and in terms of their life chances.

They said only direct benefits to children were considered rather than wider impact to society.

It will now be up to ministers whether to accept the recommendation of the four CMOs.

If they agree, children will be offered the Pfizer jab.

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The vaccine is likely to be given in schools and parental consent will not be needed if the child is considered competent to give consent themselves.

What impact could this have on school disruption?

The CMOs said it was not possible to quantify to what extent vaccination would reduce school disruption.

The vaccines are less effective at preventing infection against the Delta variant of coronavirus than they were against previous variants.

But they said, “on balance”, the benefits in reducing disruption and the harm it caused provided “sufficient extra advantage” to warrant extending vaccination to healthy children in this age group.

They said poorer children had been hit hardest by the pandemic and could gain the most from vaccination.


Teenagers walking in school corridor

image source, Getty Images

Children with health conditions and those living with clinically vulnerable people have already been told they can get the vaccine.

This accounts for around one in 10 of the three million children in this age group.

The decision by the government’s vaccine committee, the JCVI, came amid concerns about a small, but increased risk of heart inflammation after vaccination.

They said vaccination offered a marginal benefit, but not sufficient enough to convince them a vaccination programme should be rolled out.

Why only one dose?

The recommendation that only one dose be given – which the CMOs said could be looked at again in the spring – is related to the risk of a condition called myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle.

There is a risk after one dose, but the risk increases after two with between 12 to 34 cases being seen for every one million second doses.

And most of the benefits from the vaccine, which reduce the small risk of illness, are gained after one.

Children aged 16 to 18 have only been told to get one dose currently.

Many other countries have decided to give two doses to children, although the recommendation by the CMOs mirrors what is being done in Norway.

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