The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved by the MHRA for use in patients aged 12 and over.
Experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have now advised the government that the health benefits of vaccination in people aged 12-15 are marginally higher than the potential risks – but advised ministers to seek further input from the CMOs.
The UK’s four CMOs will consider factors such as the impact on schools and young people’s education in addition to the direct health benefits of vaccination in this group.
Health ministers across the four UK nations have written to the CMOs, who are now expected to consult experts and senior clinical and public health leaders over the way forward.
People aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 or who live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from the virus are already eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and are being contacted by the NHS, to be invited to come forward.
The JCVI has advised that this offer should be expanded to include more children aged 12 to 15, for example those with sickle cell disease or type 1 diabetes.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Our COVID-19 vaccines have brought a wide range of benefits to the country, from saving lives and preventing hospitalisations, to helping stop infections and allowing children to return to school.
‘I am grateful for the expert advice that I have received from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
‘People aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to the virus have already been offered a COVID-19 vaccine, and today we’ll be expanding the offer to those with conditions such as sickle cell disease or type 1 diabetes to protect even more vulnerable children.
‘Along with Health Ministers across the four nations, I have today written to the CMOs to ask that they consider the vaccination of 12 to 15 year olds from a broader perspective, as suggested by the JCVI.
‘We will then consider the advice from the Chief Medical Officers, building on the advice from the JCVI, before making a decision shortly.’