The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published its advice on the vaccination of children and young people. Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) has accepted this advice and all four parts of the UK expect to follow the JCVI’s advice and align their deployment in each nation.
JCVI’s advice is based on currently available data and is kept under review as new data emerges, the JCVI has advised that the Government:
Maintains the existing eligibility criteria for 16 to 17-year-olds;
Offers vaccination (for operational flexibility) to all 17-year-olds who are within three months of turning 18;
Offers vaccination to 12 to 15-year-olds with the underlying health conditions specified below:
underlying conditions resulting in immunosuppression, and
those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities or who are on the GP learning disability register.
Offer vaccination to 12 to 15-year-olds who are healthy but are household contacts of individuals (adults or children) who are immunosuppressed. The purpose of this is primarily to protect the household member who is immunosuppressed (16 to 17-year-old household contacts are already offered vaccination).
Through the covid-19 vaccines programme, we have administered over 80 million vaccine doses in the UK, with recent Public Health England data suggesting that this has prevented between 6.4 and 7.9 million infections and between 26,000 and 28,000 deaths in England alone. The vaccine is the most effective way of protecting the most vulnerable and minimising hospitalisations and deaths. An early estimate from PHE suggests that in adults under the age of 40 a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine is 61% effective against symptomatic disease, and 72% for a single dose of the Moderna vaccine.
For children and young people, the risk of serious outcomes from covid-19 is much lower than for older people and we recognise that decisions on vaccination for this group are therefore much more finely balanced than for adults. The JCVI has been clear that for those children and young people with specified health conditions the balance of evidence is that they will benefit from vaccination.
With the deployment to these new groups of children and young people those out, I am now updating the House on the liabilities HMG has taken on in relation to further vaccine supply via this statement and attached departmental minute containing a description of the liability undertaken. The agreement to provide indemnity with deployment of further doses to the population increases the statutory contingent liability of the covid-19 vaccination programme for the only vaccine currently authorised for use in those aged under 18, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
It has been and remains the Government’s strategy to manage covid-19 until effective vaccine/s have been deployed at scale. Willingness to accept the need for appropriate indemnities to be given to vaccine suppliers has helped to secure access to vaccines with the expected benefits to public health and the economy alike much sooner than may have been the case otherwise.
Given the exceptional circumstances we are in, and the terms on which developers have been willing to supply a covid-19 vaccine, we along with other nations have taken a broad approach to indemnification proportionate to the situation we are in.
Even though the covid-19 vaccines have been developed at pace, at no point and at no stage of development has safety been bypassed. The MHRA approval for use of the currently deployed vaccines clearly demonstrates that this vaccine has satisfied, in full, all the necessary requirements for safety, effectiveness, and quality. We are providing indemnities in the very unexpected event of any adverse reactions that could not have been foreseen through the robust checks and procedures that have been put in place.
I will update the House in a similar manner as and when other covid-19 vaccines or additional doses of vaccines already in use in the UK are deployed.
HM Treasury has approved the proposal.