UK panel backs coronavirus vaccines for vulnerable teens

The U.K. will start vaccinating certain vulnerable teens “as soon as possible” against COVID-19, following the green light today from the U.K.’s independent committee on immunization.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) recommended that children should be offered the jab if they’re at increased risk of serious disease. That group includes children aged 12 to 15 with severe neurological disabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities.

The panel, which advises the U.K. government and the devolved administrations, also recommends that people aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person should be offered the vaccine to protect their at-risk household contacts.

Under existing advice, teens aged 16 to 17 with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious COVID-19 should have already been offered vaccination.

Unlike many countries in Europe, however, the committee has not recommended routine vaccination of all children over 12.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he has accepted the JCVI’s decision and asked the National Health Service “to prepare to vaccinate those eligible as soon as possible.” JCVI will “continue to review new data, and consider whether to recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at a future date,” he added.

The devolved administrations have also accepted the JCVI’s recommendation.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is the only approved jab currently for children aged 12 and over in the U.K. In Europe, the European Medicines Agency is expected to make a decision on Moderna’s shot in children this week.

This article has been updated.

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