Children between the ages of 12 and 15 are to be offered the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in England.
The UK’s four Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) made the same recommendation during a press conference on Downing Street Monday.
But what exactly was announced, why was the decision made and do parents need to vaccinate their children?
– What was announced?
The UK’s four Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have said that children between the ages of 12 and 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine.
Approximately three million children are said to be eligible for vaccination, although the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) has decided not to recommend mass vaccination for the age group.
While health ministers are not yet required to publicly approve the move, a document posted on the Public Health England (PHE) section of the government website states that all children 12 and older are eligible and given an initial vaccination.
– Why was the decision made?
In their advice to the government, the UK CMOs said they would recommend vaccines for “public health reasons” and that it was “likely that vaccination will help reduce the transmission of Covid-19 in schools”.
They added, “Covid-19 is a disease that can be transmitted very effectively through mass spreading events, especially with the Delta variant.
“Having a significant proportion of students vaccinated is likely to reduce the likelihood of events likely to lead to local outbreaks in or associated with schools.
“They will also reduce the likelihood that a single child will get Covid-19. This means that vaccination will likely reduce (but not eliminate) educational disabilities. “
After consulting with a number of experts, including the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Paediatrics, the CMOs said they view education as “one of the most important drivers of improved public health and mental health.”
They added, “The effects of educational disabilities or insecurities on mental health are well known.
“There can be lifelong health effects when longer breaks in education lead to fewer life chances.
“While full school closings are much less likely to be required due to lockdowns in the next stages of the Covid-19 epidemic, UK CMOs expect the epidemic to continue and be unpredictable.
“Local attacks of infection, including in schools, should be expected for some time to come. Where they occur, they are likely to be annoying. “
– What do the dates say?
The CMOs believe that a single dose of Pfizer will greatly reduce the chances of a young person getting Covid and passing the virus on.
Clinical evidence shows that a single dose of Pfizer lowers the risk of contracting the Delta variant of Covid-19 by 55% and has a much greater effect on preventing serious illness and death.
It also interrupts the transmission.
– Why not two cans?
The JCVI was asked to consider whether children and adolescents aged 12 to 15 years should be given a second dose as soon as further international data became available.
Data from the US and Canada indicate a higher rate of the extremely rare event of heart muscle inflammation called myocarditis after a second dose, which was taken into account in the decision-making process.
– Who can get the jab right now?
All 16 and 17 year olds will be offered a first dose with the intention of having a second at a later date.
People aged 12 to 15 are entitled to two doses if they are at greater risk for a number of problems.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, added that there were “no plans at the moment” to look into vaccinating children under the age of 12.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently not recommended for anyone under the age of 18.
– Do children have to be vaccinated?
The JCVI had said Covid-19 posed a very low risk to healthy children and vaccination would bring only marginal benefit.
JCVI Professor Wei Shen Lim said there was “no conflict” between his advice and that of the CMOs, adding that the JCVI was looking at jabs from a health perspective.
Whitty said it was a “difficult decision” but CMOs would not recommend the vaccinations “unless we thought the benefits outweighed the risks”.
He added, “In a way, we are not trying to tell children, ‘you must, must, must, must, must,’ but what we are saying is that we are taking into account the benefits of both for each individual level and in terms of wider ones indirect advantages for education and thus for public health are in favor, otherwise we would not make this recommendation. “
He agreed that the CMO’s advice was “not inconsistent with that of the JCVI” and said it was “very good” but had also looked at issues such as education.
– Do you vaccinate in schools?
It is expected that the vaccinations could be given through the schools as soon as possible once the advice from the government has been taken into account.
The NHS in England had already been asked to prepare the introduction of vaccines for all 12 to 15 year olds in case the CMOs recommend the program
– Do parents have to consent?
The government has said that if your child is offered a vaccination in school, an informed consent form can be given to give your permission.
The nurse or family doctor will discuss the Covid-19 vaccine at the appointment and will be able to answer any questions you have.
Parents’ consent is not required if the child is considered capable of making decisions.
Prof. Whitty said for the “vast majority of cases that children and their parents make the same decision”.
Vaccination Minister Nadhim Zahawi said vaccination of 12-15 year olds required parental consent, but children can overrule parents who do not want them to receive the vaccination.
He told the Commons: “As with all vaccinations for children, parental consent is sought. The consent process is used by each school in its normal way, giving parents enough time to give their consent.
“Children between the ages of 12 and 15 also receive information, usually in the form of a leaflet, for their own use and for sharing and discussing with their parents prior to the date of vaccination and the designated time.
“Parental, guardian or caregiver consent is obtained from school-age vaccination providers prior to vaccination in line with other school vaccination programs.
“In the rare event that a parent disagrees, but the child or teen wants the vaccine, there is a process where the school-age vaccinator first brings the parent and child to see if they are can reach a consensus, and if not, the vaccination will be given if the child is judged to be competent. “
– Are there any side effects?
The most common side effects in children aged 12 to 15 years are similar to those seen in people 16 years and older.
These include injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills, and fever.
These effects are usually mild to moderate and improve within a few days.
The JCVI has also studied the effects of myocarditis after Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
While the disease can result in short hospital follow-up times, followed by typically rapid recoveries, the JCVI has concluded that medium to long-term outcomes are still uncertain and more follow-up time is needed to get a clearer picture.
During the Downing Street briefing, Dr. June Raine of the Medicines and Health Products Regulator said the side effects are “mild” for 12-15 year olds who are vaccinated.
Regarding myocarditis and heart problems, she said, “We have done a very thorough review of both UK and international reports, there is a consistent pattern, we see cases a little more often in young men and after the second dose.
“But overall, the conclusion of our expert advisors is that these are mild cases that normally recover within a short period of time with standard treatment.
“Our advice remains that the benefits outweigh the risks of vaccination, and this includes 12-15 year olds.”
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