JCVI Doesn't Recommend COVID-19 Jabs for All 12 to 15-year-olds

Nicky Broyd

September 03, 2021

Editor's note, 3 September 2021: This article was updated with the latest information.

The Government vaccination advisory group, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), is not recommending COVID-19 jabs for all 12 to 15-year olds. However, it is widening the limited roll out to at-risk groups.

Children with chronic major heart, lung, kidney, liver, and neurological conditions will now be offered vaccination.

Around 200,000 more children will be invited for jabs.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had put plans in place for a mass child vaccination programme ahead of a JCVI announcement, saying it wanted to be "ready to hit the ground running".

Margin of Benefits

A JCVI statement said: "The health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms. However, the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15-year-olds at this time."

It continued: "It is not within the JCVI’s remit to consider the wider societal impacts of vaccination, including educational benefits. The Government may wish to seek further views on the wider societal and educational impacts from the Chief Medical Officers of the UK four nations."

Chair of COVID-19 Immunisation for the JCVI, Professor Wei Shen Lim, said: "Children aged 12 to 15-years-old with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered COVID-19 vaccination. The range of underlying health conditions that apply has recently been expanded.

"For otherwise healthy 12 to 15-year-old children, their risk of severe COVID-19 disease is small and therefore the potential for benefit from COVID-19 vaccination is also small. The JCVI’s view is that overall, the health benefits from COVID-19 vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years are marginally greater than the potential harms. Taking a precautionary approach, this margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal COVID-19 vaccination for this age group at this time. The committee will continue to review safety data as they emerge."

Next Steps

Ministers are expected to now seek extra advice on the wider benefits of vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds, with the UK’s four chief medical officers being asked to lead this process.

The review will not consider any benefits adults may experience due to having children vaccinated, but rather will focus on areas outside the JCVI’s remit.

This would include lost education time due to COVID-related absences, either through sickness or being sent home from school.

It is expected to take several days.

England's Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he is "grateful" for the expert advice from the committee, adding that he and other health ministers from across the UK have written to the chief medical officers to "ask that they consider the vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds from a broader perspective, as suggested by the JCVI".

He added: "We will then consider the advice from the chief medical officers, building on the advice from the JCVI, before making a decision shortly."
 

Expanded Health Conditions

The expanded list of health conditions for child COVID vaccinations includes:

  • Haematological malignancy

  • Sickle cell disease

  • Type 1 diabetes

  • Congenital heart disease

  • Chronic respiratory disease

  • Chronic heart conditions

  • Chronic conditions of the kidney, liver or digestive system

  • Chronic neurological disease

  • Endocrine disorders

  • Immunosuppression

  • Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen

  • Serious genetic abnormalities that affect a number of systems

Teachers' Reaction

Additional safety measures in schools will become "more important" if CMOs decide not to vaccinate all 12 to 15-year-olds, a teaching union has said.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: "If the decision not to vaccinate is upheld by the chief medical officers, this makes additional safety mitigations in schools all the more important.

"Sadly, in taking away so many safety measures last term, without replacing them with others, the Government has left schools open to another rise in case counts – which will mean many children and staff missing school if they test positive."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "We understand that this decision has been made after making an assessment of the balance of risks and with all the available evidence, and we respect that decision.

"Nevertheless, the upshot is that this would make it more difficult during the autumn term and beyond to guard against educational disruption caused by transmission of the virus."

Open Letter

Earlier today, UK and international experts have signed an open letter via The BMJ to England's Education Secretary Gavin Williamson saying school children aged 12 and over should be vaccinated against COVID-19 and not to do so would be "reckless".

The signatories included Oxford's Prof Trisha Greenhalgh, Dr Deepti Gurdasani, Queen Mary University of London, and US paediatrician Dr Peter Hotez, whose paper on the topic informed the US CDC's child vaccination advice.

They also recommended the reinstatement of face coverings and 'bubbles' in schools, and better ventilation.

The letter said: "Children have suffered significant harms from COVID-19. In just the past 2 months there have been over 2300 hospitalisations of under 18s in England.“

It raised concerns about long COVID in young people and continues: "The evidence from Scotland and the USA, where schools reopened a few weeks ago, suggests that the lack of adequate mitigations will likely lead to infections spreading among children and significant absences due to student and staff illness, further disrupting learning."

Following the announcement, Prof Greenhalgh tweeted: "The UK JCVI is increasingly out of line with mainstream scientific opinion." 

Research from Scotland published yesterday in The BMJ found that teachers were not at an increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation.

MHRA Protest
 

Earlier today, images on social media showed anti-vaccination protesters trying to get in to the MHRA's Canary Wharf headquarters in London. Leaflets were being distributed over the vaccination of children.

https://twitter.com/Andrewwood17/status/1433780795794153472?s=20

This article contains information from PA Media.

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