Covid vaccine for children: Everything you need to know about jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds
Children aged 12-15 will be offered a coronavirus vaccine, it has been confirmed.
The UK's Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have recommended all young people within this age group be offered the vaccine "on public health grounds".
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has accepted the advice, with the first jabs set to begin on school grounds next week in England.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) did not advise in favour of a rollout, saying that while there was an overall benefit to children, it was marginal.
The CMOs have now come to a different conclusion - but there's a good reason.
So why did the UK's four Chief Medical Officers decide it was needed? And how will the rollout work for you and your children?
Here is what you need to know....
Why have the CMOs made the decision?
Ten days ago, the JCVI stopped short of recommending the jab for all 12-15s - saying that while there was an overall benefit to children's health, that benefit was only marginal.
The Chief Medical Officers came up with different advice today because they looked at the wider benefit to kids' schooling - as well as just the benefit to their health.
Professor Chris Whitty told a Downing Street press conference they found "powerful evidence" of the disruption to kids' education since 2020.
The four UK CMOs sent a letter to Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying all young people aged 12-15 should be offered the Covid-19 vaccination.
They found mass vaccination of over-12s will "likely" reduce Covid outbreaks in schools - cutting the odds of learning being disrupted, which harms kids in itself.
The CMOs wrote: "The additional likely benefits of reducing educational disruption, and the consequent reduction in public health harm from educational disruption, on balance provide sufficient extra advantage in addition to the marginal advantage at an individual level identified by the JCVI to recommend in favour of vaccinating this group.”
It is understood they do not see vaccination as a "silver bullet" that will stop all outbreaks, but it will help cut disruption as further surges are expected in the winter.
Keeping children safe from Covid also protects vulnerable adults they love from harm. However, the CMOs did not factor this into their assessment - it would have been too difficult an ethical question.
Is it safe?
The Pfizer and Moderna jabs have been approved as safe for 12 to 15 year olds by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
This is because most data is available from other countries on these vaccines being administered in this age group.
Government scientists approved the use of Pfizer jabs to be offered to kids in England.
Scientists had been analysing data on an extremely rare side effect called myocarditis.
The condition causes the heart muscle to become inflamed, reducing its ability to pump blood.
While the condition can result in short periods of hospital observation, followed by typically swift recoveries, the JCVI has concluded the medium to long-term outcomes are still uncertain and more follow-up time was needed to get a clearer picture.
However, the UK's CMOs - Professor Chris Whitty in England, Dr Frank Atherton in Wales, Dr Michael McBride in Northern Ireland and Dr Gregor Smith in Scotland - said myocarditis can also be caused by Covid-19 and resolves itself in most cases.
They looked at a paper from the US, which found young men with Covid are up to six times more likely to develop myocarditis as those who have received the vaccine.
The side effect is also described as "very rare" and the majority of cases picked up so far had recovered after contracting the condition.
The Government’s vaccine watchdog, JCVI, stopped short of advocating children getting the jab not because of safety, but because the benefits of the jab were too minimal to justify a rollout.
Professor Chris Whitty stressed this jab will not interfere with booster jabs.
Where will children get their Covid jabs?
A mass rollout of jabs could begin on school grounds in days.
Nick Gibb, Schools Minister said earlier this month that delivering jabs at school would be the “swiftest and most efficient” way of rolling out the vaccination programme for children.
Will it need my consent?
Parents will be asked for consent for the vaccination of their children aged 12-15.
But the CMOs letter said professional medical groups should be consulted on consent issues, adding: “A child-centred approach to communication and deployment of the vaccine should be the primary objective."
In practice that means some children who want the vaccine will still be able to get it, even if their parents object.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said for the "great majority of cases, children and their parents come to the same decision".
But children can overrule parents who do not want them to get the jab if they're deemed "competent" to make the decision with all the medical information.
Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "In the rare event that there is a situation a parent does not consent but the child or the teenager wants to have the vaccine, then there is a process by which the school age vaccination clinician will bring initially the parent and the child to see whether they can reach consensus and if not, if the child is deemed to be competent, then the vaccination will take place."
One dose or two?
Chief Medical Officers advise that kids aged 12 to 15 are only offered one dose of the Pfizer jab for now.
The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) will be asked to give further advice on whether they should get a second dose.
But that advice isn’t expected before the Spring term.
When will it start?
The CMOs said a first injection could take place immediately, so it will start as soon as a rollout is approved by ministers and NHS teams can get in place.
Vaccinations for children will begin on September 22, according to reports.
Is this the same as the booster rollout?
No. Vaccines for children aged 12 to 15 are a completely different to the booster rollout, they just happen to have been approved at around the same time.
Every adult has been offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and every adult will have the opportunity to get their second dose by mid-September.
The vaccines currently on offer are from Moderna, Oxford/AstraZenea and Pifzer/BioNTech.
Boris Johnson let slip that millions of adults in England will be offered a third "booster" jab even though government advisers have not yet published their decisions.
In response to a question on whether booster jabs are going ahead, Mr Johnson said: “the prime minister said: “That’s going ahead – that’s already been approved.”
It's thought boosters will be offered to all over-50s and vulnerable adults, but this is yet to be confirmed.