The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has issued advice that all 16 to 17-year-olds should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This is in addition to the existing offer of 2 doses of vaccine to 16 to 17-year-olds who are in ‘at-risk’ groups.
Pending further evidence on effectiveness and safety in this age group, a second vaccine dose is anticipated to be offered later to increase the level of protection and contribute towards longer term protection.
At this time, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine authorised for persons aged 12 to 17 years in the UK. The Conditional Marketing Authorisation for Pfizer-BioNTech came into effect on 9 July 2021.
Further data and the potential availability of alternative vaccine options will inform exact details which will be provided in a subsequent update of this advice before second doses are due at approximately 12 weeks after the first dose.
As previously advised by JCVI, persons aged 12 to 15 years with specific underlying health conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID-19, should be offered two doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with an interval of 8 weeks between doses. This currently includes children with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, underlying conditions resulting in immunosuppression, profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD), severe learning disabilities or who are on the learning disability register. Details regarding additional person-groups with underlying health conditions to be offered vaccination will be provided as updates in the Green Book.
Children and young people aged 12 years and over who are household contacts of persons (adults or children) who are immunosuppressed should be offered two doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on the understanding that the main benefits from vaccination are related to the potential for indirect protection of their household contact who is immunosuppressed. The offer of vaccination may help to alleviate stress and anxiety experienced by the children and young people living in these difficult circumstances. This advice is provided recognising that persons who are immunosuppressed are at higher risk of serious disease from COVID-19 and may not generate a full immune response to vaccination themselves.
Responding to the latest guidance, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today’s advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) means more young people aged 16 and over can benefit from COVID-19 vaccines. I have accepted their expert recommendations and I have asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate those eligible as soon as possible.
“The JCVI have not recommended vaccinating under-16s without underlying health conditions but will keep its position under review based on the latest data.
“Those aged 12 to 15 with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as people in this age group who are household contacts of individuals who are immunosuppressed, are already eligible for vaccination. JCVI will continue to review data and provide updates on at risk groups aged 12 to 15 and whether any additional groups will be added.
“COVID-19 vaccines have saved more than 60,000 lives and prevented 22 million infections in England alone. They are building a wall of defence against the virus and are the best way to protect people from serious illness. I encourage everyone who is eligible to come forward for both their jabs as quickly as possible.”
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