Wales could jab 12-15 year olds after all as UK Government set to give go ahead in England next week
The UK Government is set to give the green light to vaccinating 12-15-year-olds as soon as next week, making it much more likely that Wales will follow suit.
The UK Government’s vaccines watchdog, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), announced yesterday that there was not enough evidence to recommend vaccinating that age group.
However, English ministers have told the press that they are now confident that the Chief Medical Officers of Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will back the move next week.
According to the Times, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is already thought to be in favour of pushing forward with vaccination, as in Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith. The NHS in England has already been told to be ready to begin the programme immediately.
France, Israel, Ireland, Germany and the US are already vaccinating over 12-year-olds.
In a statement yesterday, Wales’ Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said that the JCVI “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”.
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.
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.”
Explaining their reasons for not recommending jabs for children, the JCVI said that the marginal benefit of vaccinating them was “insufficient to support a universal offer” of vaccines to the age group.
Prof Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid immunisation for the JCVI said that the “margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal Covid-19 vaccination for this age group at this time”.
“The committee will continue to review safety data as they emerge,” he added.
The JCVI did however recommended an expansion of the group of children with health conditions that makes them clinically vulnerable, including haematological malignancy, sickle cell disease, type 1 diabetes and congenital heart disease.
Eluned Morgan said that “our NHS will work quickly to identify these children and young people and their Health Boards will automatically contact them”.
The Welsh Government announced earlier this week that some 12 and over will be offered a third Covid-19 jab, the Welsh Government has announced.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said it would be offered to individuals aged 12 and over who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of either, or both, of their first two vaccine doses.
The Welsh Government said they were following the advice of the JCVI to do so.
The advice has been given because some immunosuppressed individuals may not produce a full immune response to the Covid vaccine.
In a written statement, Eluned Morgan said: “Today, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have advised that a third COVID-19 vaccine primary dose be offered to individuals, aged 12 years and over, who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of either, or both, of their first two vaccine doses.
“This is because some individuals who are severely immunosuppressed due to underlying health conditions or certain medical treatments may not produce a full immune response to COVID-19 vaccination.
“These individuals need additional protection and I welcome this advice. The JCVI advice details the groups who will be eligible and our NHS in Wales will work quickly to identify eligible individuals who will be contacted by their Health Boards.”