Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services.
Today, following months of discussion and consideration of evidence, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have issued advice on the vaccination of children and young people aged 12-15.
They recommend an expansion of the list of specific underlying health conditions for children and young people aged 12 -15 years who are eligible for two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. In their advice, they detail the additional groups who will be eligible. Our NHS will work quickly to identify these children and young people and their Health Boards will automatically contact them. There is no need for patients to contact their health board or clinicians to check eligibility. Those children and young people already eligible under the JCVI’s advice of specific underlying health conditions will have already been offered appointments.
On children and young people aged 12-15 who do not have underlying health conditions, the JCVI have advised that the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms but that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the potential harms. From an individual health benefit perspective, they feel the margin of benefit, is considered too small to support advice on a universal programme of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12-15-year-old children at this time. They do however acknowledge that there may be wider issues to consider which are outside the remit of the JCVI to evaluate, such as wider societal impacts, including educational benefits, where the CMO would be better placed to advise, with representation from JCVI.
I would like to thank the JCVI for fully considering the issue of vaccinating 12-15 year olds and for taking the care to form a balanced view. Alongside the other nations of the UK, I have asked my Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to provide guidance at the earliest opportunity on the clinical and wider health benefits of vaccinating this age group. Our intention, as it has been from the start of the pandemic, is to follow the clinical and scientific evidence. Decisions on the vaccination of all 12-15 year olds will be made on the basis of the CMO’s advice, in addition to the advice provided by the JCVI. In the meantime, our NHS has planned and stands ready to implement any further decisions taken.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.