Covid booster jabs to be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds

·3-min read
   (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Booster jabs are to be offered to all teenagers aged 16 to 17, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed.

The decision comes after he accepted a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to vaccinate at-risk children aged five to 11 with a lower dose of the Pfizer jab, after it was found by the MHRA medicines watchdog to be safe and effective.

The decision to give a booster to 16- and 17-year-olds follows the go-ahead earlier in December to give a second dose to this age cohort.

Boosters will not be rolled out until January at the earliest, with local NHS teams asked to continue to prioritise giving boosters to adults in care homes, NHS and social care staff and people who are immunosuppressed.

In a statement on Thursday, Mr Javid said: “I have accepted the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to offer vaccines to at-risk 5-11 year old children and extend the booster programme to at-risk 12-15s and all 16-17s.

“While our current and unrelenting focus is ensuring all eligible adults are offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine by the end of December, because two doses do not provide enough protection against the Omicron variant, the NHS will prepare to offer vaccines to at-risk 5-11 year old children.

“We have secured supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech paediatric vaccine which will start to arrive in the UK from mid-January.

“This is a national mission and we urge everybody to play their part by getting their vaccines and booster doses as soon as possible.”

More than 275,000 under-18s in London have had a first dose and 62,000 two doses.

But the capital’s take-up rate is the lowest of all regions in England, with 39.8 per cent of 12-15 year olds and 55.1 per cent of 16-17 year olds having had a first dose.

At-risk children aged 5-11, or those living in a household with an immunosuppressed adult, will be offered two 10mcg doses of the Pfizer vaccine, reduced from the 30mcg doses given to adults.

Doses should be eight weeks apart and there should be a gap of at least four weeks between a Covid infection and a dose. GPs will be asked to check their records for at-rick children to ensure they are offered the jab.

Healthy children aged 16-17 should get a 30 microgram Pfizer booster no sooner than three months after their second dose. They have to wait eight to 12 weeks between first and second dose, and up to 12 weeks for a second dose if they contract Covid.

The booster is also being offered to at-risk 12-15 year olds, including those living with immunosuppressed adults.

In addition, it will be offered to children and young people aged 12 to 15 who are severely immunosuppressed and who have had a third primary dose.

The “paediatric Pfizer” dose will not be ready until mid-January but children who need to receive a booster before then can have a diluted adult dose, the JCVI said.

Dr Camilla Kingdon, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “It is disappointing that the paediatric formulation of the vaccination is not yet available.

“Nevertheless, we want to reassure parents, carers and the public that using a smaller dose of adult vaccine, or medicine, for children off-licence in the way described by the JCVI is not unusual. This is done by a qualified practitioner as they will have the right training and safeguards in place.”

NHS England guidance states: “We are working at pace to ensure these changes are in place to support implementation during January, therefore systems will be asked early in the new year to develop local plans to support delivery.

“Prioritisation of booster vaccination within eligible cohorts should generally be in the order of descending age groups, or clinical risk, whichever is more expedient.”

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