Covid vaccines are expected to be offered to UK children aged 16 and 17, in line with many other countries, after a minister confirmed that government experts will update their recommendations “imminently”.
Michelle Donelan, minister for universities, said the government was waiting for an announcement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) on expanding access to the coronavirus vaccine to more adolescents.
Just two weeks after the agency recommended no routine vaccination of children, two government sources confirmed that the JCVI was reconsidering its ruling. Jabs for ages 12 and older are currently limited to those who are clinically vulnerable or living with someone at risk.
The update on the council was first revealed by Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish prime minister, who said Tuesday that she “hoped” that the 16- and 17-year-olds would have the go-ahead to receive it after all.
When asked why the government was going ahead with vaccines for 16- and 17-year-olds, Donelan told Sky News: “What we’re doing is waiting for the JCVI announcement; at each stage of the pandemic we have adopted their advice on this matter. Of course, they are the experts when we determine the launch of the vaccine and we will await their imminent announcement shortly. “
The ministers are believed to be in favor of older children having access to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and had asked the JCVI to keep the situation under review.
One of the concerns the scientists raised, related to the Pfizer puncture, was inflammation around the heart, and the JCVI concluded that the benefits do not outweigh the risk for those who would receive the punctures.
The government expects the country to have passed the worst of the third wave, with daily new cases of Covid across the UK falling to 21,691 on Tuesday and hospital admissions falling to 731. There were 138 deaths. However, concerns remain that the rate of new cases will rise again once schools reopen in September, at the same time that many employers expect more workers to return to the office.
New published findings from the React 1 study show that fully vaccinated people were three times less likely than unvaccinated people to test positive for Covid – about a 50% to 60% reduced risk, including asymptomatic infection. Data from Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori also suggested that doubly vaccinated people are also less likely to transmit the virus to other people.
The study estimates are somewhat lower than Public Health England figures They have suggested 79% protection against symptomatic Delta infection after two strokes.
While the estimates from the React study had a considerable amount of statistical uncertainty, Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React program and chair of epidemiology and public health medicine at Imperial College London, said the difference, even when comparing the Effectiveness with symptomatic Covid, could in part depend on the populations involved, considering that the PHE data is based on those presented for testing, rather than a random sample.
“[With a] random sample of people, they may have symptoms but they may not be tested, “he said.
Older teens are one of the groups with the highest levels of Covid infections, so offering vaccines to 16- and 17-year-olds could have a significant impact on reducing transmission.
Professor Rowland Kao, a participant in the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modeling Group (Spi-M) and epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Per capita, older adolescents currently have the highest risk of Covid-19 infection and vaccinate Los 16 and 17 year olds should reduce this.
“Current evidence also suggests that even when vaccinated individuals become infected, they are both at lower risk of severe disease and their viral load falls more rapidly than for unvaccinated individuals, with the likely consequence that they are less likely to infect others, although this is difficult to prove directly.
“Therefore, it is likely that vaccinating older adolescents will not only protect them, but will also help protect others and mitigate any other wave of infection that may occur.
“Of course, this must be countered by evidence of occasional side effects from the vaccines themselves, for which there is some evidence that they occur more frequently in young adults and older adolescents.
“While this risk is low, it is important that the evidence on which to make any decision about further vaccinating older adolescents is clarified.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism