(AFP) — The UK government’s independent advisory body on vaccines said Friday it would not recommend jabbing all 12- to 15-year-olds against coronavirus, arguing the benefits were “too small”.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a panel of experts which advises ministers, has been weighing the issue after numerous other countries began giving the jabs to young teens.
It has previously recommended giving approved COVID-19 vaccines to all 16- and 17-year-olds but only to 12- to 15-year-olds who have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.
On the advice of the JCVI, Britain’s four chief medical officers — in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — will now provide further input ahead of a final government decision.
The committee, which focuses purely on health effects, wants them to consider the “wider societal impacts, including educational benefits” of whether to roll out vaccines to younger teens.
Schools have returned recently across Britain following the summer break, with fears that this could lead to a new surge in cases after weeks of moderate rises in infections.
In its recommendation, the JCVI argued the benefits from vaccination are “marginally greater than the potential known harms” of the inoculations, while acknowledging there was “considerable uncertainty” about those.
“The margin of benefit, based primarily on a health perspective, is considered too small to support advice on a universal programme of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12- to 15-year-old children at this time,” it said.
“As longer-term data on potential adverse reactions accrue, greater certainty may allow for a reconsideration of the benefits and harms.”
The recommendation contrasts with the United States, which announced in May that younger teens would be vaccinated, and many European Union countries including France which have begun jabbing that age group.
All four health ministers in the UK wrote Friday to their respective chief medical officers requesting they give a “broader perspective” on the issue.
“We will then consider the advice from the chief medical officers, building on the advice from the JCVI, before making a decision shortly,” England’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.
Britain began vaccinations in December last year and has jabbed nearly 89 per cent of all adults with a first dose, while more than 79 per cent have two shots.
The latest data from Public Health England and Cambridge University shows vaccines have saved more than 105,000 lives and prevented 143,600 hospitalisations and 24 million cases in England, according to the government.