The UK will start vaccinating certain vulnerable teens “as soon as possible” against COVID-19, following the green light today from the UK’s independent immunization committee.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) recommended that children should be offered the injection if they are at increased risk of serious illness. That group includes children ages 12-15 with severe neurological disabilities, Down syndrome, immunosuppression, and multiple or severe learning disabilities.
The panel, which advises the UK government and decentralized administrations, also recommends offering the vaccine to 12-17 year olds living with an immunosuppressed person to protect their household contacts at risk.
According to existing advice, teens ages 16-17 with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 should have already been offered the vaccine.
However, unlike many European countries, the committee has not recommended routine vaccination of all children over 12 years of age.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he accepted the JCVI’s decision and asked the National Health Service “to prepare to vaccinate those eligible as soon as possible.” The JCVI “will continue to review new data and consider whether to recommend vaccinating those under 18 without underlying health conditions at a future date,” he added.
Decentralized administrations have also accepted the recommendation of the JCVI.
The BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine currently approved for children aged 12 and over in the UK. In Europe, the European Medicines Agency is expected to make a decision on the injection of Moderna in children this week.
This article has been updated.