The recommendation follows an evidence review by researchers at University College London, who found that while COVID-19 does increase the risk of serious illness in children and young people with pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities, the risk overall remained low.
Guidance from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health last summer advised that most children who were on the shielding list could be removed.
The only children who remained on the list following this guidance were those with risk of severe infection due to primary or drug-induced immunodeficiency, those with specific immunosuppression as part of their cancer therapy and those with severe lung disease or who have an impairment in ability to cough and clear airway secretions.
Shielded patient list
As a result of this latest advice these patients will also now be removed from the shielded patient list. NHS England said that patients will receive a letter from the government explaining this decision in the ‘coming days’. An FAQ document explaining the decision is also available for clinicians.
People are no longer required to shield, but GPs and hospital doctors have been asked to maintain the shielded patient list in case the need to reintroduce shielding arises in future.
The Welsh government has also confirmed that all children and young people will be removed from the shielding list. The government said the change would affect around 2,700 young people who are currently on the list. All those affected will also receive a letter explaining the changes.
Welsh minister for health and social services, Eluned Morgan, said: ‘We have taken a cautious, data-driven approach throughout this pandemic and continue to do so. We have looked carefully at the data from the past 18 months and are reassured that children and young people previously considered clinically extremely vulnerable should no longer be included on the shielding patient list due to the risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus being extremely low.
‘Children and young people have been severely affected by the pandemic, with many missing school and meeting family and friends. The change to the shielding patient list will ensure that only people who really need to follow this advice stay on the list.’
Children aged 12 to 15 with specific health conditions or who live with individuals who are immunosuppressed are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, along with all young people aged 16 and 17.