Thank you for contacting me about offering COVID-19 vaccination to 12-15 year-olds.
As the Chief Medical Officer has said, the Delta variant is highly infectious, so the vast majority of the unvaccinated will catch COVID-19. The likelihood of children having significant detriment if they catch the virus is thankfully very low, but there is still some risk. I am glad, therefore, that time has been taken to assess this decision carefully and thoroughly.
Earlier this year, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the COVID-19 vaccines supplied by Pfizer and Moderna for 12- to 17-year-olds. It confirmed that both vaccines are safe and effective for this age group. The MHRA is one of the best medical regulators in the world and I can reassure you that authorisation would not be approved unless the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met.
While the JCVI assessed that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms, the margin of benefit was considered too small to support universal vaccination on this basis alone. That is why additional advice was sought and the UK’s Chief Medical Officers considered the matter from a broader perspective.
In their view, the additional likely benefits of reducing educational disruption, and the consequent reduction in public health harm, including mental health, from that disruption, on balance provide sufficient benefit in addition to the benefit identified by the JCVI. The CMOs therefore recommend extending the offer of universal vaccination, with a first dose of Pfizer, to all 12-15 year olds and the Government has accepted this advice.
I understand that vaccination will be delivered in schools, supported by GPs and community pharmacies. Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought prior to vaccination, in line with existing programmes. It is important that children are able to understand the risks and benefits of vaccination for themselves, so it is welcome that information will be provided in a way that is accessible to children and young people as well as their parents.
At every point in the vaccination programme, decisions have been guided by the best clinical advice to keep the people of South Derbyshire and the UK safe and I know that this decision is no different. I hope all those aged 12 to 15 will accept this offer of vaccination to protect themselves, their family and friends and the wider population.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.