Statement: Vaccination of under 18s


Background 

Prior to 19 July 2021 the Scottish Government vaccination programme against coronavirus did not include children under 16 years of age and children aged 16 and 17 were only offered vaccination if they fell within a priority group.    

The two agencies involved in decision making on vaccinations in the UK are the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), who approve vaccines for use in the UK and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who make recommendations on which vaccines will be included in national vaccination programmes and who they will be offered to.    

On 4 June 2021, the MHRA approved the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccination against coronavirus for use in children aged 12-15. On 19 July the JCVI announced their recommendation that specific groups of children aged 12-15 be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.   

That includes children aged 12 to 15 with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities. 

The JCVI also recommended that children and young people aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person should be offered the vaccine. This is to indirectly protect their immunosuppressed household contacts, who are at higher risk of serious disease from COVID-19 and may not generate a full immune response to vaccination. 

The JCVI is not currently advising routine vaccination of children of any age. 

The JCVI has an important role to play in balancing the health risks and benefits of vaccination for children in their advice to governments.  

As part of the World Health Organisation’s Technical Advisory Group on Schooling During Covid 19 we have called for further evidence to ascertain the optimum set of mitigation strategies, including vaccination of children, that would achieve the full range of health, social and educational aspirations for the entire population, particularly children.  

Rights Engaged 

Extension of the coronavirus vaccination programme raises some important issues around children’s rights to health and to life and also engages a number of other rights. In the case of children and young people who are at increased risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19, the protection of a vaccination will mean they are able to participate more fully in society, exercising their rights to education; to play sport and recreation and to meet with their family friends.  Even as restrictions have decreased for other children, many of these children have been unable to return to a more normal life.   

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner welcomed the advice that clinically vulnerable 12-15 year-olds as well as children who live with people who have a weak immune system will be offered vaccinations in the further extension of the vaccination programme. 

The Commissioner said: 

“In the case of children who are at increased risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19, being offered the protection of a vaccination will mean that along with the additional protection to life and the highest attainable standard of heath, they are able to participate more fully in society, exercising their rights to education; to play sport and recreation and to meet with their family and friends.  

“For those children who live with family members who are immuno-compromised, offering a vaccination may provide some reassurance to them and to their families, including for those who are young carers.  

“As restrictions have decreased for other children, many of these children have been unable to return to many aspects of their normal life, so it is important they are offered vaccination.  

“Young carers in particular have reported that the pandemic has resulted in them feeling increasingly disconnected from other people with an unsurprising negative impact on their mental health.  

“It’s important that the continued strong message is that reducing the impact of Covid and restrictions relies on older people getting vaccinated. Children have made important sacrifices, and their rights have been significantly affected by restrictions over the last 17 months. It is important that adults play their part in reducing Covid and the consequent impact of Covid restrictions on children.  

“The JCVI has an important role to play in balancing the health risks and benefits of vaccination for children in their advice to governments. As part of the World Health Organisation’s Technical Advisory Group on Schooling During Covid 19 we have called for further evidence to ascertain the optimum set of mitigation strategies, including vaccination of children, that would achieve the full range of health, social and educational aspirations for the entire population, particularly children.  

The Scottish Government must continue to consider the wider impacts on children and ensure that Scotland’s vaccination strategy and Covid measures ensure the best outcomes for public health, including the growing understanding of the risks associated with long Covid and the significant effects that Covid restrictions have on children.” 


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