Plans to vaccinate schoolchildren across the country against Covid-19 are expected to get the go ahead this month even though the Government’s scientific advisers have not recommended a mass roll out.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the “margin of benefit is considered too small” to support widespread vaccination of healthy 12 to 15 year olds, because the vast majority of children who are infected with the virus are asymptomatic or suffer mild symptoms and recover without treatment.
But health secretary Sajid Javid has asked England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty to review the evidence and determine whether there is a case for vaccinating this age group.
He will consider the advice of chief medical officers from each country in the UK and the JCVI before he makes a decision, but according to The Telegraph, ministers are confident he will sign off on the plans next week.
A Department for Health source said Mr Javid wants to make sure the NHS “is ready to go” and begin vaccinating 12 to 15 year olds, with their parents’ consent.
The health service is currently recruiting thousands of vaccinators for schools, as children across the country return to this classroom this month after the summer break, but the health secretary has said the Government needs to “move quickly” to roll out the jabs.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said he “very much hopes” that vaccines can be rolled out to the under16s.
But on Friday the JVCI said that health teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15 are at a “very low risk” of becoming seriously ill when they are infected with Covid-19 and the health benefits from vaccination are “marginally greater than the potential known harms”.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 Immunisation for the JCVI, 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.”