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Young people aged 12-15 to be offered vaccine

People aged 12 to 15 in England will be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, following advice from the four UK chief medical officers (CMOs), the health and social care secretary has announced.

In line with the recommendation of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the government sought the views of the four UK CMOs on the wider issues that are relevant to the health of children.

The government has accepted the advice of the four UK CMOs and the NHS is preparing to deliver a school-based vaccination programme, which is the successful model used for vaccinations including for HPV and Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP), supported by GPs and community pharmacies. Invitations for vaccination will begin next week.

Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by vaccination healthcare staff prior to vaccination in line with existing school vaccination programmes.

Healthy school-aged children aged 12 to 15 will primarily receive their Covid-19 vaccination in their school with alternative provision for those who are homeschooled, in secure services or specialist mental health settings.

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Vaccine deployment minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said: ‘Earlier this year our medicines regulator, the MHRA, approved the Covid-19 vaccines supplied by Pfizer and Moderna for 12-17-year-olds.

‘They confirmed that both vaccines are safe and effective for this age group.

‘Our CMOs consulted with clinical experts and public health professionals from across the United Kingdom – such as the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

‘They have also benefitted by having data from the United States of America, Canada and Israel, where vaccines have already been offered to children aged 12- to 15-years old.

‘The unanimous recommendation of the UK’s Chief Medical Officers is to make a universal offer of one dose of the Pfizer vaccine to the 12- to 15-year old age group, with further JCVI needed before any decision on a second dose.

They have been clear, Mr Speaker: they are making this recommendation on the basis of the benefits to children alone and not the benefits to adults or wider society.

‘Whatever decision teenagers and parents take, they must be supported and not stigmatised in any way.

‘We must continue to respect individual choice.

‘People who wouldn’t think twice about getting the jab for themselves will naturally have more more questions when it comes to vaccinating their children.

‘I completely understand that. But to those who remain undecided, I want to say this: the MHRA is the best medical regulator in the world. and they have rigorously reviewed the safety of our vaccines.

‘They have concluded they are safe for 12- to 15-year olds.

‘And across all age groups, we continue to have a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy in place to monitor the safety of all of the Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the United Kingdom.

And it’s important to remember that our teenagers have shown great public spirit at every point in this pandemic. They’ve stuck to the rules so that lives could be saved, and people kept safe. And they’ve been some of the most enthusiastic proponents of vaccines.

‘This is, at least in part, because they’ve experienced the damage that comes with outbreaks of Covid-19. And we’ve seen more than half of 16- and 17- year olds across the UK get the jab since becoming eligible just last month.

‘At every point in our vaccination programme we’ve been guided by best clinical advice.’

Health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid said: ‘I have accepted the recommendation from the Chief Medical Officers to expand vaccination to those aged 12 to 15 – protecting young people from catching Covid-19, reducing transmission in schools and keeping pupils in the classroom.

‘I am very grateful for the expert advice I have received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and UK Chief Medical Officers.

‘Our outstanding NHS stands ready to move forward with rolling out the vaccine to this group with the same sense of urgency we’ve had at every point in our vaccination programme.’

Photo Credit – CDC

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