Only vulnerable children over 12 will get Covid vaccines for now

Only vulnerable children over 12 will get Covid vaccines for now

Only children 12 and over with Down’s syndrome and severe disabilities or who live with vulnerable adults will get Covid vaccines for now, health chiefs say

  • Over-12s who are vulnerable, or live with at-risk adults, will be offered a vaccine
  • But the JCVI said the evidence does not yet support jabbing all children
  • Scientists expect more than 90 per cent of the new group to get the injection

Children over 12 who have underlying conditions, or are living with someone who does, will be offered a Covid vaccine, health chiefs said today.

This includes youngsters with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said today.

Additionally, young people aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person, such as an adult receiving chemotherapy, will be offered the vaccine.

JCVI scientists — which advise No10 on the inoculation drive — said this will protect people in their household who cannot produce a proper immune response to the vaccine.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI, said it is not yet clear how many more people can now get the jab, but he would be surprised if the uptake was below 90 per cent for the newly eligible group.

Experts said healthy children should not be given the vaccine because current evidence shows the ‘minimal health benefits’ for under-18s do not outweigh the risks.

It comes as all Covid restrictions were lifted in England today, with daily cases hitting 39,950 and 19 people dying form the virus. 

 Children aged 12 to 15 with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities can now get the Covid jab. Additionally, youngsters who live with people who are immunosuppressed should get the vaccine, the JCVI said

Professor Finn said the JCVI based their decision on a study by Pfizer that examined the affect of their jab on 2,000 children, as well as real-world data from countries who are already immunising youngsters. 

Data showed Covid ‘very rarely’ affects children seriously, but children with underlying conditions were most likely to be severely impacted, he said.

Experts said they ‘did not ignore’ the benefits of vaccinating youngsters to protect older groups, but it is ‘not at all obvious’ that vaccinating children would control infection in the UK. 

The rollout to the new group will now happen ‘pretty fast’, Professor Finn said.

Vaccinating children against Covid remains a contentious topic because most youngsters are at such low risk from the virus itself and the jabs carry a tiny risk of serious side effects. 

There has been extremely rare reports myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart — and pericarditis — when the protective layer around the heart becomes inflamed — in young people who got the vaccine.

Data from the US — where cases of myocarditis have been spotted — suggests the complication is most common in boys and young men. 

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said this morning the Government had niggling concerns about the ‘very rare’ cases of heart inflammation in some young people given the Pfizer and Moderna jabs. 

Young people aged 16 and 17 who have underlying health conditions have already been offered the jab. 

Covid is rarely severe or fatal in children, with just 30 dying from Covid in the UK in the first year of the pandemic.

The new group now eligible for the jab will receive Pfizer’s vaccine, as it is the only one the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved for over-12s in the UK.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Today’s advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) means more vulnerable young people at greatest risk from this virus can now benefit from COVID-19 vaccines.

‘I have accepted their expert recommendations and I have asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate those eligible as soon as possible.

‘Young people aged 12 to 15 with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as people who are household contacts of individuals who are immunosuppressed, will be eligible for vaccination soon.

‘Our independent medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people aged 12 and over as it meets their robust standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.

‘Today’s advice does not recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at this point in time. 

‘But the JCVI will continue to review new data, and consider whether to recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at a future date.’

‘COVID-19 vaccines have saved almost 37,000 lives and prevented around 11.7 million infections in England alone. They are building a wall of defence and are the best way to protect people from serious illness. I encourage everybody who is eligible to get their jabs as soon as they can.’

Professor Anthony Harnden, Deputy Chair of the JCVI, said: ‘The primary aim of the vaccination programme has always been to prevent hospitalisations and deaths. Based on the fact that previously well children, if they do get COVID-19, are likely to have a very mild form of the disease, the health benefits of vaccinating them are small.

‘The benefits of reducing transmission to the wider population from children are also highly uncertain, especially as vaccine uptake is very high in older people who are at highest risk from serious COVID-19 infection.

‘We will keep this advice under review as more safety and effectiveness information becomes available.’

Operationally, it is considered reasonable to allow a lead-in time to offer vaccination to children who are within 3 months of their 18th birthday to ensure good uptake in newly turned 18-year-olds.

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are still reviewing whether all children should be given the vaccine, while the Daily Telegraph said the committee is ‘leaving the door open’ for the move

What is the evidence on vaccinating children? 

Covid is very rarely severe or fatal in children.

Just one in 500,000 under-18s are at risk of dying from the virus, researchers at leading UK universities found this month. 

That means any vaccine given to youngsters has to be very safe because the risk-harm benefit from them catching the virus is so low.

The fact that older people have a higher chance of being hospitalised or dying from the virus outweighs the side effects the vaccine could have on them.

But as children are less affected from the virus, some side effects could be riskier to them than the virus itself.

Since the vaccine rollout has been expanded to children in countries including the US and Israel, there have been reports of an extremely rare reported cases of myocarditis and pericarditis.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, while pericarditis is when the protective layer around the heart gets inflamed.

There are no specific causes of the conditions but they are usually triggered by a virus.

The UK is expected to wait for more data from clinical trials and other countries immunising children before making a decision to offer all youngster the jab.

The US, Israel and France are already giving the vaccine to over-12s. 

In addition to safety concerns, children’s bodies and immune systems behave differently, meaning they might have different treatment needs.

Youngsters may need different doses or needle sizes depending on their height, weight and age – which is why most children are only vaccinated after safety has been well-documented in the adult population. 

The committee is waiting for evidence from children receiving both doses in the US and in trials before recommending all healthy children be injected.

But they will ‘leave the door open’ for a wider rollout among children after they review safety data from trials later this year, according to the Daily Telegraph. 

Pfizer is currently trialling its jab on children aged between two and 11, while AstraZeneca is testing its jab on six to 17-year-olds. 

Results from the trials are expected to be published around November. 

It is still unclear if the AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to children in the UK — it is already restricted in adults under 40 due to its very rare links to deadly blood clots.  

Pressed on why the Government was not looking to jab all children, Mr Zahawi told Sky News this morning: ‘The JCVI are continuing to review that. 

‘There is new emerging data of children vaccinated in America and elsewhere with a first dose, not yet enough data with a second dose, so they want to look at all the data.

‘There is a very rare signal around something called myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart. 

‘On balance, I think the JCVI are coming down on the side of continuing to review all children, healthy children, but wanting to protect the vulnerable children first.’ 

British health chiefs already warn Pfizer and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines may cause heart damage.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency insists the complication – inflammation of the heart muscle which can damage the organ over time – is still ‘extremely rare’ and ‘typically mild’.   

Data from the US — where cases of myocarditis have been spotted — suggests the complication is most common in boys and young men.

Professor Helen Bedford, a children’s health expert at University College London, said: ‘To recommend a vaccine for any population group there needs to be careful weighing up of the risks of the disease and benefits and risks of vaccinating. 

‘Healthy young people and children, become seriously ill with Covid extremely rarely, so there would be few direct benefits for them of vaccination but it would contribute to increasing population immunity. 

‘There may be a stronger case for vaccinating those with existing serious health conditions. 

‘Before recommending vaccination for all children and young people we therefore need to be very clear about of the safety of the vaccines in this group. 

‘Although there is now good trial data and experience of vaccinating very large numbers of adults and the vaccines have been shown to be safe, we cannot automatically assume this applies to children. 

‘More information is needed from trials and experience of using these vaccines in young people and children before the programme is rolled out further.’

It comes as Professor Neil Ferguson, dubbed ‘Professor Lockdown’ after his grim modelling of the first wave initiated the first shutdown last March, warned yesterday that herd immunity will be impossible without vaccinating children.

Herd immunity is when so much of a population is immune to a virus, either through vaccination or previous infection, that the disease starts to decline. 

Professor Ferguson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday: ‘We’re already seeing very high numbers of cases in teenagers, and we won’t be able to reach herd immunity without significant immunity in basically people under 18.’ 

He also warned daily figures could reach 200,000 infections and 2,000 hospitalisations.

Professor Ferguson said: ‘We’ll know it’s worked when case numbers plateau and start going down, we know then hospitalisations and deaths will take some more weeks.

‘The best projections suggest that could happen any time from, really, mid-August to mid-September. So, we will have to be patient.

‘It’ll also take us three weeks before we know the effect of Monday, of relaxing restrictions, and what that will do to case numbers. So, it’s going to be quite a period of time.’

Source: Read Full Article