LONDON — Until further safety data on the vaccinations become available, the British government has opted not to inoculate most children and teenagers against COVID-19.
The government said Monday that children as young as 12 years old with severe neuro-impairments, Down syndrome, immunosuppression, and numerous or severe learning disabilities, as well as those who are household contacts of immunosuppressed persons, will be eligible for immunization.
The decision to hold off on administering injections to most people under the age of 18 was based on the advice of a panel of experts. According to the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization, the advantages of universal vaccination do not exceed the dangers for most young individuals, who generally only have minor symptoms from the virus.
The JCVI stated in a statement that “until further safety data is available and has been assessed, a cautious approach is preferred.”
“Today’s guidance does not advocate vaccinating under-18s without underlying health problems at this time,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.
The United Kingdom’s choice not to vaccinate most young people put it at odds with France and many other European countries, which have opted to vaccinate children as young as 12 years old.
Hundreds of people, including teens and their parents, flocked to a vaccination clinic in Paris on Friday. Last Monday, the French government stated that in the fall, vaccination drives will be held in middle schools, high schools, and universities.
Children and teens in the United Kingdom who are eligible for vaccination will get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is the only one that British authorities have approved for use in individuals under the age of 18. The vaccine produced by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca is still being tested in children for safety and efficacy.
Aside from the medical and scientific concerns concerning teenagers’ use of COVID-19 vaccinations, many public health professionals have questioned the morality of immunizing low-risk youngsters at a time when many of the world’s most vulnerable individuals still lack vaccine access.
Professor Andrew Pollard, who was a key figure in the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine, recently told Parliament’s science and technology committee that vulnerable people should be prioritized above children abroad.
The Oxford experiment should benefit authorities in determining whether they want to extend mass vaccination campaigns to children in the future as they work to keep schools safe and battle the virus’s spread in the general population, according to Pollard.
The statement occurred on what the government has termed “Freedom Day,” the day on which the majority of the remaining COVID-19 limitations were lifted across the United Kingdom. Nightclubs are reopening for the first time in 16 months, and bars and restaurants may finally function at full capacity.
Because 88 percent of the adult population has already gotten at least one dose of vaccination and more than two-thirds have been completely vaccinated, the government decided to relax the limitations. While the number of infections is quickly increasing, due to the high level of immunization, fewer individuals are becoming critically ill than during previous waves of the virus.