Covid-19 jabs for healthy children aged between 12 and 15 are not being recommended by the Government’s vaccine advisers.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced that it is widening the limited rollout to more children in this age bracket who have underlying health conditions.
But it is not recommending mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds.
Coronavirus presents a very low risk for healthy children, and the JCVI has determined the benefit of vaccinating them is only marginal in terms of their health.
The committee decided under its precautionary approach that the benefit is not large enough to support their mass vaccination from a purely health perspective.
The JCVI investigated the extremely rare events of inflammation of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis, after Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The condition can result in short periods of hospital observation, followed by typically swift recoveries, but the JCVI has concluded the medium to long-term outcomes are still uncertain and more follow-up time is needed to get a clearer picture.
The jabs programme is being extended from what had been considered the most at-risk children to include those with chronic major heart, lung, kidney, liver and neurological conditions.
It means about 200,000 more children will be invited for vaccines.
The decision comes exactly a week after the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed preparations were under way to ensure the NHS was ready to offer coronavirus jabs to all 12 to 15-year-olds in England from early September.
The department had said it wanted to be “ready to hit the ground running”.
Ministers are expected to now seek extra advice on the wider benefits of vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds, with the UK’s four chief medical officers being asked to lead this process.
The review will not consider any benefits adults may experience due to having children vaccinated, but rather will focus on areas outside the JCVI’s remit.
This would include lost education time due to Covid-related absences, either through sickness or being sent home from school.
It is expected to take several days.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he is “grateful” for the expert advice from the committee, adding that he and other health ministers from across the UK have written to the chief medical officers to “ask that they consider the vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds from a broader perspective, as suggested by the JCVI”.
He added: “We will then consider the advice from the Chief Medical Officers, building on the advice from the JCVI, before making a decision shortly.”