The Pfizer Covid vaccine is safe and effective for children aged 12 to 15, the UK’s regulator ruled today.
It was approved for over-15s in December last year and it will now be allowed to be given to anyone over the age of 12 because the ‘benefits outweigh any risk’. Ministers have asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) whether to give the jab to teenagers — the current rollout is set to stop at age 18 except for children with serious health conditions.
The JCVI — which normally rules who should get a vaccine — is expected to tell No10 that jabbing children is a ‘political’ decision and will leave the ball in ministers’ court. Vaccinating children against the virus is a controversial issue because youngsters only have a tiny risk of getting seriously ill and their immunity would likely only protect older adults.
More than 100 cross-party MPs and the World Health Organization have said the priority should be to get vaccine doses abroad to poorer countries where vulnerable people still haven’t been jabbed before giving them to low-risk children. More than 6million under-17s have already been vaccinated in the US after it became the first country to approve the jab for children last month.
While Pfizer’s trials have not seen any new side effects and very few serious ones, seven American teenage boys developed heart inflammation after second dose of and were taken to hospital. None were critically ill, and all were healthy enough to be sent home after two to six days in the hospital. Similar reports of young men suffering inflamed hearts have emerged in Israel, too.
But pressure to vaccinate children in the UK could build up in the coming months as it emerges the now-dominant Indian variant is spreading quickly among them and may be more likely to make them sick.