Covid: Which children are vaccinated and why?


By James Gallagher
Correspondent on health and science

image source, Getty Images

All children 12 to 15 years of age will be offered one dose of the Covid vaccine.

We hope that this measure will prevent further disruptions in their education.

Why will children aged 12 to 15 get a sting?

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said it was a “difficult decision” but the absence from school “was extremely difficult for the children”, especially in poor areas.

Prolonged disorders could cause mental health problems and affect life chances in the long run, he added.

Vaccination of children will not stop the spread of Covid in schools, but it should help reduce the number of cases.

Evidence suggests that a single dose reduces the risk of catching a Delta variant (if you come in contact with it) by about 55%. It also reduces the chances of you getting very ill or passing it on to someone else.

The second dose should not be considered before the spring deadline, the chief doctors said.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

The vaccine is not mandatory.

Professor Whitty said vaccination would be “offered” to all children ages 12-15.

But he said that it is necessary to support young people and their parents and there should be no stigmas related to their choice.

Will parents have to give permission?

Although parental consent is required, children under the age of 16 who can demonstrate that they understand the risks and benefits may request the vaccine – or refuse it – if they do not agree with their parents.

This important legal test of whether a child can consent to treatment is known as “Gillick competent”. It was named after a famous dispute in which a teenager wanted advice on contraception without her mother’s consent.

In practice, it would be exceptional for a child under the age of 13 to be assessed as Gillick competent.

Those aged 16 and 17 do not need parental permission, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Which vaccine is used and will younger children be injected?

There is currently no approved vaccine for children under 12 in the UK.

Which children have already been vaccinated?

Those aged 12 to 15 are already entitled to two doses if they are at higher risk due to:

  • Severe neurodisability (which may include cerebral palsy, autism or epilepsy)
  • Down syndrome
  • Severely weakened immune system, including some children with cancer
  • Deep and multiple learning difficulties
  • Chronic diseases of the heart, lungs and liver

Children of the same age who live with people with a weakened immune system can also be vaccinated.

Is the Covid vaccine safe for children?

No drug is completely safe and all represent a balance of risks and benefits.

But the Pfizer sting would not have been approved for use in the UK if it had not been considered safe.

The vaccine has been linked to incredibly rare cases of inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) and a sac in which the heart beats from within (pericarditis). It has been found to be more common in younger men even after the second dose.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are testing their vaccines on six-month-old children.

What do other countries do?

  • In the EU, countries including France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy have started stabbing children
  • The United States recommends vaccinating everyone over the age of 12
  • China aims to vaccinate all young people aged 12 to 17 by October
image source, Getty Images
caption imageA young person vaccinated in north London

How many children died of Covid?

Almost all children and young people have a very low risk of Covid-19.

Data for England suggests that about 25 children died of Covid in the first 12 months of the pandemic.

Most of them also had serious health problems, including complex neurological difficulties.

Only six had no recorded health conditions.

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