Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
Today, following a review of all the evidence, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published its recommendations to further expand the COVID-19 vaccination programme to children aged five to 11 who are not considered to be at clinical risk.
As I set out in my statement yesterday (15 February), I have accepted this advice and am grateful to the JCVI for its insight, considerations and expertise, which has proved so invaluable throughout this pandemic.
At the current time, the JCVI considers the balance of potential benefits and harms is in favour of offering a vaccination to all children aged five to 11.
It advises two 10 mcg doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Paediatric COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty®) is offered with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses. Children this young must have the opportunity of being accompanied by a parent or guardian during vaccination and the absence of any age priority within the advice makes it easier for eligible siblings to be vaccinated at the same time.
The JCVI advises this is a non-urgent offer with the aim of increasing this age group’s immunity in advance of any potential future waves of COVID-19 and will enable children to benefit from as much time in school as possible. It also advises the offer should not displace the delivery of other paediatric non-COVID-19 or COVID-19 immunisation programmes.
Delivery of paediatric non-COVID-19 immunisation programmes across all ages should receive due attention, particularly where vaccine coverage has fallen behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic and where there is evidence of health inequalities. Once common illnesses are now rare in the UK because of immunisation.
I would urge children, young people and their parents and carers to follow Public Health advice and ensure they are fully immunised to protect them from potentially serious diseases, such as measles and meningitis.
This advice is considered by JCVI as a one-off pandemic response programme. As the COVID-19 pandemic moves further towards endemicity in the UK, the JCVI will review whether, in the longer term, an offer of vaccination to this, and other paediatric age groups, continues to be advised.
NHS Wales has been planning for this scenario for a number of weeks. There is work in train to ensure the necessary immunisation and clinical guidance is in place, and there is factual and trusted information on the Public Health Wales website for children and parents to inform their decision, before health boards will be ready to implement.
I would encourage families to begin to have conversations about the offer and whether to take up the vaccine when it becomes available.