HEALTHY teenagers are still not in line for Covid vaccines after Government advisers refused to decide on the rollout.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has signed off on jabs for 200,000 more high-risk children but will not recommend them for all 12 to 15-year-olds.
Vaccines were rolled out to 16 and 17-year-olds in August and half have already had a jab (Pictured: 16-year-old Ruby Anson in Stevenage)[/caption]
JCVI chiefs said vaccines only offer a “marginal” health benefit to children without long-term illnesses so it was no longer a medical decision.
But this does not mean they’re off the cards – and shows the experts have found no medical reason not to allow the jabs.
In an unprecedented move, the JCVI has passed the buck to Professor Chris Whitty and chief medical officers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The CMOs will take into account other factors – such as overall immunity in the population, infection rates and possible school disruption – before they advise ministers on whether to vaccinate teenagers.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chief of Covid at the JCVI, said: “For otherwise healthy 12- to 15-year-old children, the risk of severe Covid-19 is small and therefore the potential for benefit from Covid-19 vaccination is also small.
“Taking a precautionary approach, this margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination for this age group at this time.
“The committee will continue to review safety data as they emerge.”
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Scientists are concerned that a condition called myocarditis – swelling in the heart muscle – is more likely than average in children who get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
The JCVI said the risk of Covid still outweighs this – but only very slightly, making it too close to call based on medical data alone.
The controversial move will spark a row among scientists and politicians who are fiercely divided over the issue.
Some insist children will suffer with severe infections and long Covid if they don’t get jabs, while others say the JCVI are leaders in their field and should have their concerns taken seriously without political pressure.
Cases of coronavirus are expected to surge next week as children get tested en masse again because schools have reopened.
Government critics claim this could have been avoided with childhood vaccination but JCVI insiders say jabs now have a “weaker” ability to stop the virus spreading.
It will now be up to government officials, ministers and Boris Johnson to decide whether to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds for the good of the country.
Without a rejection from the JCVI, this could make it more likely teens will be offered the jabs in a bid to stop schools having to close again.
A decision could come take days or weeks, and the UK’s four chief medics will work together but devolved countries will be able to set their own policies.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Along with Health Ministers across the four nations, I have today 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.
“We will then consider the advice from the Chief Medical Officers, building on the advice from the JCVI, before making a decision shortly.”
The JCVI did widen the group of youngsters who can get a jab already to include 200,000 more with long-term health conditions.
Those with severe lung, heart, brain, liver or kidney problems – as well as kids with type 1 diabetes or blood cancer – will get a vaccine offer.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, said: “It’s important to state that we’re not recommending against vaccination of children.
“What we’re saying is that, with well children, the benefits and risks are much more finely balanced.
“This is a very unusual situation in which children’s education has been interrupted by Covid so we felt it was wise to refer to more expert people to look at the educational sides.”