An influential independent expert advisory committee that advises the United Kingdom health departments on immunization, generating recommendations for vaccination policy, schedules, and observances of vaccine safety has declared that healthy children ages 12 to 15 will not be needing COVID-19 vaccines in the UK. Called the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), with a statutory role in England and Wales, health care departments in Scotland and Northern Ireland can opt to follow its advisory. The recent declaration appears to deviate from the Anglo-American world, where a vaccine-centric eradication of COVID-19 drives the Biden administration’s plans now and into 2022, where he hopes to stave off an election massacre against his party.

While the JCVI has recognized that the “health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms,” the influential body declared that the particular “margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15 year old at this time.”

While mass vaccination programs, such as the ongoing and unfolding one in America do consider wider societal impacts such as benefits to education and the like, JCVI has no concerns on that front. Thus JCVI recommended to the UK government that if it seeks other views associated with “wider societal and educational impacts” that it elicit inputs from the Chief Medical Officers of the 4 UK nations.

The Reality

TrialSite has recorded for over a year now that 90% plus of all SARS-CoV-2 cases are asymptomatic to mild-to-moderate and can be resolved, ideally with early-care treatments that could stop most disease progression. The UK’s JCVI emphasizes that most children aged 12 to 13 are very healthy and hence wouldn’t require hospitalization even if they did catch a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Put another way, the high-risk group within this cohort is the few children with other underlying health conditions.

Thus the committee recommended the expansion of the list of conditions to which the offer applies for at-risk 12 to 15-year-olds.

JVCA also recognized the rare but significant risk of myocarditis. Nonetheless, the medium and long-term effects on young people are not known at this time.

What cohorts get offered vaccines?

When deciding on childhood immunizations, the JCVI has consistently maintained that the main focus should be the benefits to children themselves, balanced against any potential harm from vaccination.

As longer-term data on potential adverse reactions accumulate, greater certainty may allow for a reconsideration of the benefits and harms. This data may not be available for several months.

Previously, the JCVI advised that children with severe neuro disabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression, profound and multiple learning disabilities, and severe learning disabilities or who are on the learning disability register should be offered COVID-19 vaccination.

Following consideration of updated data on hospital admissions and deaths, the JCVI advises that this offer should be expanded to include children aged 12 to 15 with the following:

  • hematological malignancy
  • sickle cell disease
  • type 1 diabetes
  • congenital heart disease
  • other health conditions as described in Annex A

Children with poorly controlled asthma and less common conditions, often due to congenital or metabolic defects where respiratory infections can result in severe illness, should also be offered COVID-19 vaccination.

Conclusion

JCVI concluded that “given the very low risk of serious COVID-19 disease in otherwise healthy 12 to 15-year-olds, considerations on the potential harms and benefits of vaccination are very finely balanced and a precautionary approach was agreed.” The group concluded, “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. The committee will continue to review safety data as they emerge.”

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