UK committee: Healthy kids aged 12-15 don’t need coronavirus vaccine

The U.K.’s advisory committee on vaccinations said Friday healthy children aged 12 to 15 should not be offered a jab against COVID-19.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization said that while the benefits of vaccinating healthy children “are marginally greater” than the potential harms, “the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15 year olds at this time.”

The government has come under heavy fire for not rolling out vaccinations to kids over 12 in time for their return to school. Countries across Europe have been vaccinating this age group for some time to prepare for the school year when the Delta variant is prevalent.

Pressure mounted further Friday with a letter published by the British Medical Journal, signed by scores of concerned doctors, educators and parents. They pointed out that 40 to 50 kids under 18 are being admitted to hospital every day due to COVID-19, while 34,000 children are currently living with long COVID.

Wei Shen Lim, chair of COVID-19 immunization for the JCVI, said that for healthy young people, “their risk of severe COVID-19 disease is small and therefore the potential for benefit from COVID-19 vaccination is also small.” He said the committee was taking a “precautionary approach” by not recommending vaccinating this group.

The committee underlined that the vast majority of children had mild or no symptoms. It also pointed out the very low risk of heart inflammation with mRNA vaccines, noting that the long-term effects of this were unknown.

The JCVI said, however, that it was beyond its remit to consider any potential wider societal impacts of vaccination, including in education. “The government may wish to seek further views on the wider societal and educational impacts from the Chief Medical Officers of the U.K. four nations,” the JCVI said in a statement.

In a letter to the four CMOs, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and his counterparts from the other three nations asked the countries’ top doctors to “consider the matter from a broader perspective, as suggested by the JCVI.” The health ministers also urged the CMOs to report back “as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, the committee added to the current list of vulnerable over 12s who should be eligible, including those with hematological malignancy, sickle cell disease, Type 1 diabetes and congenital heart disease.

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