Ministers have asked the officials to review the guidance in light of possible issues that might arise as the school term gets under way. The current guidance would allow for teens with underlying conditions or vulnerable parents to get the shot.
The decision on healthy children was based on concern over an extremely rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine that causes heart inflammation, the BBC reported.
“The margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal COVID-19 vaccination for this age group at this time,” said Wei Shen Lim, chair of COVID immunization for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI). “The committee will continue to review safety data as they emerge.”
The current program, which already includes some children with preexisting conditions, will now extend to include children with chronic heart, lung and liver conditions – accounting for some 200,000 children who previously did not qualify, according to The Telegraph.
“The reason we decided to vaccinate those children with two doses is that we were looking at health benefits to the children themselves,” said Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI. “This was a really, really strong mental health issue in that if that child gave Covid to their parent or grandparent who lived with them who is immuno-suppressed, and they ended up with harm and even death from COVID, then it was going to haunt these youngsters for the rest of their lives.”
“We thought that that mental health burden was so important that they would be put within those groups of children that would be having vaccinations for health reasons,” he added.
The chief medical officers of the four U.K. nations will not further evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of vaccinating the age group.
The government had already announced preparations to provide shots to children in the age group starting in early September. The Department of Health and Social Care said that it wanted to be “ready to hit the ground running.”