UK minister says no decision made on vaccines for healthy children

Speculation mounting that 12 to 15-year-olds will be offered coronavirus shot

H90CN3 London, UK. 10th January, 2017. Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, leaves 10 Downing Street during a Cabinet meeting. Credit: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News
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British vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday said a decision had not yet been taken on whether healthy children aged 12- to 15-years-old should be vaccinated against the coronavirus, following reports that a programme could begin within days.

The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on Friday declined to recommend vaccinations for children in that age group, taking a precautionary approach because of a rare risk of heart inflammation, but adding that the issue was finely balanced.

The government is consulting medical advisers on wider considerations, such as the impact on schools, and may still approve broad vaccination of the age group.

Some newspapers reported confidence among ministers that the chief medical officers would quickly support vaccines for healthy 12- to 15-year-olds, but Mr Zahawi said the government would not prejudge the decision.

"No decision will be made until we hear back from the chief medical officers," Mr Zahawi told the BBC.

Children are being widely vaccinated already in the US, Israel and many European countries.

British officials emphasised that 12- to 15-year-olds who are vulnerable to the coronavirus are already eligible for vaccination, as are all people over 16.

The four nations of the United Kingdom, which have recorded 133,000 Covid deaths, control their own health policies, although all have followed JCVI advice on vaccines so far.

Mr Zahawi confirmed that proof of vaccination would be required in England for some large events from the end of this month once all adults have been offered two shots.

He also said that the government was still finalising plans for a vaccine booster programme following interim advice from the JCVI that one might be needed for the vulnerable and elderly.

"It is very likely that we will begin boosting those groups, as … I hope the interim then becomes final advice, by the middle of this month," he said.

Updated: September 05, 2021, 6:40 PM