What has been decided, how many will get the jab, and is it safe? As children aged 12-15 are set to receive a Covid vaccine from next week, we answer the crucial questions
What has been decided?
The UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) have agreed that children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Why are they doing this?
The main reason is to try to prevent outbreaks leading to disruption in learning and school closures, rather than concerns about children’s health. Having a significant proportion of pupils vaccinated is likely to reduce the probability of local outbreaks associated with schools, the CMOs said.
How will it work?
The NHS in England has been asked to prepare vaccines for all 12 to 15-year-olds, to be administrated largely through the school vaccination programme. Vaccinations will be given in suitable areas such as school halls by immunisation teams that often include nurses, healthcare support workers and administrative staff.
The UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) have agreed that children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
The CMOs said they would want the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to give a view on whether children should receive a second dose once more data becomes available internationally.
Is it safe?
The risk is very small, with the majority of children who have had the jabs worldwide not suffering any major side-effects.
Studies have found a small link between the vaccines and inflammation of the heart, known as myocarditis. Research suggests the risk is higher in boys after a second dose.
Experts have said the recommendation to jab 12 to 15-year-olds is a ‘good decision’ that could ‘benefit healthy children’.
What is the evidence?
Clinical evidence shows a single dose cuts the risk of catching the Delta variant of Covid-19 by 55 per cent and has a much higher effect on preventing severe illness and death. It also cuts transmission.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said evidence had shown children are ‘highly unlikely’ to become seriously ill with Covid-19, but it had been ‘extremely concerned’ about the indirect effects of the virus, including disruption to school attendance.
How many will get the jab?
around three million could be eligible.
Will parents have to give consent?
It is understood that parental consent will be sought in the first instance. But vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said children in this age group could override their parents’ wishes ‘if they’re deemed to be competent to make that decision, with all the information available’.
It is understood that parental consent will be sought in the first instance. But vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said children in this age group could override their parents’ wishes ‘if they’re deemed to be competent to make that decision, with all the information available’
Since the 1980s children under 16 have been able to consent to their own treatment if they’re believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to appreciate what’s involved.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said in most cases children and parents ‘come to the same decision’.
What might ministers do to tackle a new Covid surge?
MASKS: Ministers surprised many in July by scrapping the legal requirement to wear face masks in places such as shops and public transport. Restoring mask laws would be unpopular with Tory MPs but is seen as an option that does little damage to the economy. Likelihood: 4/5
JAB PASSPORTS: Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to rule out the controversial idea on Sunday, saying it was ‘not going ahead’. But Downing Street later described vaccine passports as a ‘first-line defence’ against rising cases and the measure will be included in today’s Covid Winter Plan. Likelihood: 3/5
WORKING FROM HOME: Boris Johnson has resisted a big ‘back to the office’ push this summer after being forced to U-turn on the issue last year. The measure remains one of the most likely to return if cases soar again. Likelihood: 3/5
SOCIAL DISTANCING: Social distancing rules are seen as one of the most effective tools against fast-rising infections but also one of the most disruptive to the economy and normal life. Limits on the size of gatherings could be reimposed if the situation worsens dramatically, but ministers are likely to resist bringing back the one metre rule unless the situation becomes dire. Likelihood: 2/5
LOCKDOWN: Downing Street yesterday said lockdown powers would be ‘retained’ in the plan for this winter but would only be used as ‘a last resort’. Mr Johnson is said to be ‘dead set against’ ordering another lockdown and ministers believe mass vaccination will make it unnecessary. But the Prime Minister has had to U-turn before and another lockdown could be ordered if a new variant emerges that evades the vaccines. Likelihood: 1/5