Britain’s chief medical officer (CMO), Professor Chris Whitty, recommended Monday that children between the ages of 12 and 15 be offered the COVID-19 vaccine, saying they would benefit from reduced disruption to their education.
More than a week ago, Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, the panel that advises British health departments on immunization policies, issued a statement saying the "margin of benefit” to inoculating children of those ages was too small for them to recommend the government do so.
But Monday, Whitty, along with his counterparts from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, told reporters they are recommending to their respective health ministers that the age group be given a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They have yet to decide on whether to give the students a second dose.
Whitty stressed the vaccinations should be “an offer,” not a mandate, adding, “We do not think this is a panacea. This is not a silver bullet … but we think it is an important and potentially useful additional tool to help reduce the public health impacts that come through educational disruption."
Whitty said the CMOs have shared their recommendations with their ministers, and it is now up to the ministers to decide how to respond.
The United States, Israel and some European countries have rolled out vaccinations to children more broadly, putting pressure on the British government to follow suit.
Britain has experienced more than 134,000 deaths from COVID-19, and a rapid start to its immunization rollout has slowed, with 81% of those over 16 receiving two vaccine doses.
Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.