LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Britain’s top medical advisers on Monday recommended that all 12 to 15-year-olds receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, citing the benefit on avoiding disruption to education after a vaccination panel had said the decision was finely balanced.
The advice from the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) paves the way for the broad vaccination of children aged 12-15 in Britain, after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) earlier in the month decided against making the recommendation.
The United States, Israel and some European countries have rolled out vaccinations to children more broadly, putting pressure on the British government to follow suit.
The CMOs said that vaccinating children could reduce disruption to schools, and that “on balance provide sufficient extra advantage… to recommend in favour of vaccinating this group.”
“(The UK CMOs) therefore recommend on public health grounds that ministers extend the offer of universal vaccination with a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to all children and young people aged 12-15 not already covered by existing JCVI advice,” the CMOS said in a letter.
The government must formally indicate whether it will follow the CMOs’ advice, though some ministers have previously expressed support for vaccinations for children. Vulnerable children in that age bracket were already eligible for shots.
The CMOs, who are the top medics in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said second doses would not be offered to the age group until at least spring as they would wait for data to build up internationally.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Michael Holden)
Photo A teenager receives a dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 at a hospital in Madrid, Spain, 11 August 2021. Madrid begins to vaccinate children over 12 years old, a measure that is already started in other Spanish regions. EPA-EFE/CHEMA MOY