Thank you for contacting me about offering COVID-19 vaccination to children.
Earlier this year, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the COVID-19 vaccines supplied by Pfizer and Moderna for 12- to 17-year-olds. It confirmed that both vaccines are safe and effective for this age group. The MHRA is one of the best medical regulators in the world and authorisation would not be approved unless the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met.
The Government’s official position is this:
While the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) assessed that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms, the margin of benefit was considered too small to support universal vaccination on this basis alone. That is why additional advice was sought and the UK’s Chief Medical Officers considered the matter from a broader perspective.
In their view, the additional likely benefits of reducing educational disruption, and the consequent reduction in public health harm, including mental health, from that disruption, on balance provide sufficient benefit in addition to the benefit identified by the JCVI. The CMOs therefore recommend extending the offer of universal vaccination, with a first dose of Pfizer, to all 12-15 year olds and the Government has accepted this advice.
I understand that vaccination will be delivered in schools, supported by GPs and community pharmacies. Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought prior to vaccination, in line with existing programmes. It is important that children are able to understand the risks and benefits of vaccination for themselves, so it is welcome that information will be provided in a way that is accessible to children and young people as well as their parents.
As the Chief Medical Officer has said, the COVID-19 Delta variant is highly infectious and very common, so the great majority of the unvaccinated will catch COVID-19. The likelihood of children having significant detriment if they catch COVID-19 is thankfully very low, but there is still some risk. Some parents feel that there is a case for children developing their own resistance and I understand the concerns of parents. I believe they should have the last word in this instance.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.