Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi updated MPs today about the latest advice with regards to coronavirus vaccinations to children. Earlier on Monday, he had revealed the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation had recommended children with medical conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 should be vaccinated, along with those who live with clinically vulnerable people. He also said young people close to their 18th birthday should have the vaccine.
Almost all remaining coronavirus restrictions have been lifted in England, including an end to social distancing rules.
This means there are now no limits on how many people can meet or how close people can get.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid are currently self-isolating after the latter tested positive for Covid.
Nightclubs can open for the first time since March 2020 with capacity limits lifted for all venues and events.
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Speaking at the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Zahawi spoke out about the new advice issued by the JCVI on Covid vaccinations for children and young people.
The JCVI has been examining evidence around vaccinating children and young people in recent weeks.
The organisation said children at increased risk of serious COVID-19 disease are offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including children aged 12 to 15 with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities.
The JCVI also advises 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 any changes to the vaccination of children outside of these groups.
Deputy chair of the JCVI Professor Anthony Harnden said: “The primary aim of the vaccination programme has always been to prevent hospitalisations and deaths.
“Based on the fact that previously well children, if they do get COVID-19, are likely to have a very mild form of the disease, the health benefits of vaccinating them are small.
“The benefits of reducing transmission to the wider population from children are also highly uncertain, especially as vaccine uptake is very high in older people who are at highest risk from serious COVID-19 infection.
“We will keep this advice under review as more safety and effectiveness information becomes available.”
Mr Javid said: “Today’s advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) means more vulnerable young people at greatest risk from this virus can now benefit from COVID-19 vaccines.
“I have accepted their expert recommendations and I have asked the NHS to prepare to vaccinate those eligible as soon as possible.
“Young people aged 12 to 15 with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as people who are household contacts of individuals who are immunosuppressed, will be eligible for vaccination soon.
“Our independent medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people aged 12 and over as it meets their robust standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.
“Today’s advice does not recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at this point in time. But the JCVI will continue to review new data, and consider whether to recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at a future date.
“COVID-19 vaccines have saved almost 37,000 lives and prevented around 11.7 million infections in England alone.
“They are building a wall of defence and are the best way to protect people from serious illness. I encourage everybody who is eligible to get their jabs as soon as they can.”