The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has today advised that all 16- and 17-year-olds receive their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
In the last few weeks, there have been large changes in the way COVID-19 has been spreading in the UK, particularly in younger age groups, according to a release from Public Health England (PHE).
It is likely that, when the second dose is offered, this will be from 12 weeks after the first dose. The benefit of having an 8- to 12-week gap between the first and second doses is becoming increasingly clear as it offers more protection for a longer period of time, says PHE.
The JCVI has looked at the latest safety data from the UK and other countries as it is known that some serious side effects have been reported in this younger age group. This includes myocarditis and pericarditis. These are extremely rare and usually occur within a few days of the second dose, typically more in young men.
Data from the USA suggests that, in males aged 12 to 17 years, 9.8 cases of myocarditis were reported per million first doses given. This rises to 67 per million after the second dose. Most people recovered quickly.
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Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, said:
“After carefully considering the latest data, we advise that healthy 16- to 17-year-olds are offered a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Advice on when to offer the second vaccine dose will come later.
“While COVID-19 is typically mild or asymptomatic in most young people, it can be very unpleasant for some and for this particular age group, we expect one dose of the vaccine to provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation.”
As previously advised by the JCVI, children aged 12 to 15 with specific underlying health conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered 2 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination with an interval of 8 weeks between doses.
This includes children with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression, profound and multiple learning disabilities, and severe learning disabilities or who are on the learning disability register. Children with additional underlying health conditions to be offered vaccination will be updated in the Green Book.
Children and young people aged 12 years and over who are household contacts of an immunosuppressed person should also be offered 2 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The full JCVI report and recommendations are available here.