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Roll-Out Guide For Worried Parents - Covid Vaccine for 12-15 year olds

We address the recent UK decision to offer the Covid Vaccine for 12 - 15 year olds:

On the 13th September 2021, the UK Chief Medical Officers recommended that all healthy 12-15-year-olds have one dose of the Pfizer Covid 19 vaccine.

Meaning: within days or weeks, all kids in this age group will have the chance to get the vaccine. This has raised the question of benefits versus risks again when it comes to Covid treatment.

Additionally, this recommendation came about ten days after the UK JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), an independent body, reported that the ...benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms.

BUT, since the benefit margin was too small, they did not recommend a universal vaccination rollout among healthy kids 12-15 years. (Excerpt from JCVI below)

"Overall, the committee is of the opinion that the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms… but acknowledges that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the potential harms. The margin of benefit, based primarily on a health perspective, is considered too small to support advice on a universal programme of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12 to 15-year-old children at this time…. JCVI is constituted with expertise to allow consideration of the health benefits and risks of vaccination and it is not within its remit to incorporate in-depth considerations on wider societal impacts, including educational benefits. The government may wish to seek further views on the wider societal and educational impacts from the Chief Medical Officers of the 4 nations, with representation from JCVI in these subsequent discussions"

JCVI

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Conflict Between JCVI and The Chief Medical Officers

At a press conference to announce the recommendation, the UK CMOs and Head JCVI emphasised they are united in this latest recommendation.

So to answer the first question, there is NO conflict between these two groups.

 But why did the earlier JCVI statement seem to differ from the CMO recommendation?

JCVI explains they have considered the health benefits and risks of vaccination in this age group to determine that while there is a benefit, it is so marginal they would not recommend a vaccination program.

However, they explained wider societal and educational impacts that should be considered outside their remit.

They presented this information expecting that any vaccine rollout decision should be taken based on including these other impacts. This is where the CMOs come in.

The Chief Medical Officers of all UK nations state they have considered these other factors in making the recommendation.

For example, they looked at:

  • Covid 19 delta variant is common and highly infections, so those unvaccinated, especially those who gather in groups, are at risk, such as school kids of this age.
  • In this age group, Covid 19 overall is rare but can occasionally lead to severe illness, hospitalisation and death
  • The risk of vaccination side effects (myocarditis) is rare, and 
  • The impact on Education and concern that disruption could lead to broader, long term impacts on individuals, families and wider public health. 

These additional considerations led the UK CMOs, despite accepting the JCVI advice, to decide that the wider public health benefits are more than the risks of universal vaccination in this age group.

covid vaccine for 12-15 year olds


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Why Should We Have Covid Vaccine for 12 -15 year olds

According to the current UK guidance:

  • Healthy people aged 16-17 years can have 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Children with chronic health conditions or who live with chronic ill health or low immunity can have two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Now here are some reasons why healthy kids aged 12-15 years should have the vaccine:

  1. The fact that the risk is marginal does not mean it doesn't exist. Covid vaccination reduces their risk of catching Covid, serious illness or hospitalisation.
  2. It will thus reduce the risk of significant disruption to education from the spread of Covid 19 in schools. This can affect educational achievements, cause social isolation from their peer groups and even impact mental health. These outcomes are significantly worse for kids in low-income areas.
  3. This virus is still present and spreading - and will continue to do so into Winter. At this time, there are other illnesses to contend with. Making sure these kids get the vaccine will help reduce pressures on the National Health Service.
  4. The head of the UK MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory agency) expressed support for the recommendation.
    • This opinion is based on studies of 2000 children aged 12-15 years on the effects of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
    • After expert review, the conclusion is - the benefits outweigh the risks.
    • The vaccines provide similar antibody levels as in adults, but they are also as effective in kids aged 12-15 years. Special mention refers to the suspected side effect of heart inflammation (Myocarditis and Pericarditis).
      • The evidence is consistent in the UK and globally - when they happen, they are more common in boys than girls, after a second dose, but most cases are mild; they recover in a short time with few complications.

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covid vaccine for 12-15 year olds

Well, the simple answer to this is yes - with some provisions.

 First, all parents of 12-15-year-olds will be asked for their consent before the vaccination with the Pfizer jab.

This should trigger a discussion between the parents and their child - and if wished, your GP to advise on any areas of uncertainty before a decision is taken.

We think that in most cases, most parents and their kids will be in agreement on whether to have the vaccine or not.

But in the tiny per cent of cases where you as a parent do not want your child to have the vaccine, the final decision will rest with your child - if they are judged to be competent.

Being competent means showing their emotional and intellectual maturity and ability to understand the proposed treatment.

Or in this specific case:

  • they can understand what the vaccine is and does,
  • the potential side effects ( in the short, medium and long term), and
  • their risks of Covid infection if they remain unvaccinated to decide what is best for themselves.

By the way, this child-centred approach is not new.

Legally, under the Fraser guidelines instituted by Lawlords in 1985, doctors can lawfully obtain consent from a young person - if they can show they are competent.

covid vaccine for 12-15 year olds

Vaccine Side Effects Among Under 16 year olds.

Let's not forget that other countries like the US have been vaccinating young people in this age group as they get ready for the Winter period.

Also, the possible side effects that could happen in those aged 12-15 years are similar to those over 16 years:

  • pain at the injection site, 
  • tiredness, headache, 
  • muscle and joint pain, 
  • chills and fever

Myocarditis

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. As a result, people may have achy chest pain and feel short of breath. 

Other symptoms to watch for can depend on how severe the condition is, such as:

  • Palpitations (rapid or irregular) pulse or heartbeat,
  • Fainting or feeling faint,
  • Tiredness,
  • Flu-like fever,
  • Headache,
  • Cough.

Finally, what are your concerns or issues with the rollout program given the JVCI and CMOs opinions? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


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References

UK's top doctors lead Covid briefing on advice to vaccinate 12-15-year-olds 

Which Children Can Get Covid Vaccine?

Universal vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 15 years against COVID-19 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, don't hesitate to get in touch with a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org

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