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Vaccines for 12-15 year olds in Wales take step closer as England expected to give green light

10 Sep 2021 3 minutes Read
Covid-19 vaccination. Picture by the Welsh Government.

The possibility of vaccines for 12-15 year olds in Wales has taken a step closer as England’s Chief Medical Officer is set to give the green light to the programme.

The Chief Medical Officers of Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are in joint discussions about backing the move, after the UK Government’s vaccine watchdog announced last week that it was leaving the decision up to the UK’s national governments.

According to the Times newspaper, England’s CMO Chris Whitty will recommend early next week that children aged 12 and over be vaccinated, with the first younger teenagers jabbed within five working days. France, Israel, Ireland, Germany and the US are already vaccinating over 12-year-olds.

The UK Government’s vaccines watchdog, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), announced last week that the benefits of vaccinating 12-15 year olds was too small to justify mass immunisation on health grounds alone.

However, in a statement last week, Wales’ Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, suggested that they could go ahead regardless, saying that the JCVI “acknowledge that there may be wider issues to consider which are outside the remit of the JCVI to evaluate, such as wider societal impacts”.

She said that she had “asked my Chief Medical Officer to provide guidance at the earliest opportunity on the clinical and wider health benefits of vaccinating this age group”.

The JCVI said that it was not within their remit to consider the wider benefits of vaccination, such as stopping community spread. Schools, which began to return in Wales this week, are thought to have become a key source of the spread of Covid in communities.

‘Evidence’

Speaking last week, Eluned Morgan added that the JCVI had advised that the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms but that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the potential harms.

“From an individual health benefit perspective, they feel the margin of benefit, is considered too small to support advice on a universal programme of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12-15-year-old children at this time,” she said.

“They do however acknowledge that there may be wider issues to consider which are outside the remit of the JCVI to evaluate, such as wider societal impacts, including educational benefits, where the CMO would be better placed to advise, with representation from JCVI.

“I would like to thank the JCVI for fully considering the issue of vaccinating 12-15 year olds and for taking the care to form a balanced view. Alongside the other nations of the UK, I have asked my Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to provide guidance at the earliest opportunity on the clinical and wider health benefits of vaccinating this age group.

“Our intention, as it has been from the start of the pandemic, is to follow the clinical and scientific evidence. Decisions on the vaccination of all 12-15 year olds will be made on the basis of the CMO’s advice, in addition to the advice provided by the JCVI.  In the meantime, our NHS has planned and stands ready to implement any further decisions taken.”

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