UK chief medical officers recommend Covid shots for children aged 12 to 15

Health officials say vaccinating young people could help reduce transmission in schools and lessen disruption

A healthcare worker prepares a Pfizer vaccine which has been recommended for UK children aged 12 to 15.  EPA
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Senior health officials in Britain have recommended that children aged 12 to 15 be offered at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

All four of the UK's Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) said they were recommending vaccines for children on “public health grounds” and it was “likely vaccination will help reduce transmission of Covid-19 in schools”.

They said their decision takes into account the potential for the disruption of pupils' education and addresses mental health concerns.

Earlier this month, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said Covid-19 presents a very low risk for healthy children and vaccination would only offer a marginal benefit.

But they suggested that the wider issues, such as education, should be taken into consideration and examined by the UK's CMOs.

Some three million children could now be offered a vaccine through their schools if ministers in England and the UK's devolved nations decide to accept the CMO's advice.

Under the UK's system, there is an individual CMO for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The CMOs said in the advice: “Covid-19 is a disease which can be very effectively transmitted by mass spreading events, especially with Delta variant.

“Having a significant proportion of pupils vaccinated is likely to reduce the probability of such events which are likely to cause local outbreaks in, or associated with, schools.

“They will also reduce the chance an individual child gets Covid-19. This means vaccination is likely to reduce (but not eliminate) education disruption.”

Social distancing signs are displayed on the floor as pupils return to school at Copley Academy in England. Getty.

After seeking advice from a range of experts, including medical colleges, the CMOs said they consider education “one of the most important drivers of improved public health and mental health”.

They added: “The effects of disrupted education, or uncertainty, on mental health are well recognised. There can be lifelong effects on health if extended disruption to education leads to reduced life chances.”

The CMOs have asked for the JCVI now to look at whether second doses should be given to children and young people aged 12 to 15 once more data comes through internationally.

Thousands of children who are shielding or live with vulnerable people have already received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reports suggest that Boris Johnson will outline England's strategy to deal with coronavirus on Tuesday, and will rule out future lockdowns with the focus instead on vaccine booster shots to deal with a rise in cases.

The NHS in England has already been asked to prepare to roll out vaccines for all children aged 12 to 15 on the assumption that the CMOs would recommend the programme.

Updated: September 13, 2021, 2:10 PM