Britain’s vaccine advisers said they were not recommending the universal vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds against COVID-19, preferring to take a precautionary approach to assess the long-term impacts of rare heart inflammation.
The advice could see Britain pursue a different approach to the United States and some European countries, which are pursuing broader vaccination of the age group.
But while the British government has previously accepted the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) over COVID-19 policy, it said it would consult medical advisers on the broader societal impact of vaccinating children, meaning a final decision is yet to be taken.
The JCVI on Friday said that there was a small benefit to children from receiving COVID-19 vaccination.
However, it said it preferred to wait for more information about reports of heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, in young people following vaccination with Pfizer’s shot. The condition is usually mild.
“The JCVI’s view is that overall, the health benefits from COVID-19 vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years are marginally greater than the potential harms,” said Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 Immunisation for the JCVI.
“Taking a precautionary approach, this margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal COVID-19 vaccination for this age group at this time,” he said, adding that safety data would be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The JCVI said it would expand the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations to more 12 to 15-year-olds with underlying health conditions than previously, emphasising that the majority of the few children who are hospitalised with COVID-19 have such conditions.