Covid vaccine will be given to 12 to 15-year-olds in schools in Wales
Younger teenagers will be offered the coronavirus vaccine and some will receive it in schools, the Welsh Government has confirmed.
In a written statement Health Minister Eluned Morgan said children in this group will be offered the jab in the next few weeks and schools are on board to help.
She said Chief Medical Officers have advised “the individual health benefits from vaccination are slightly greater than the potential known harms".
The minister said: “We have a blended model of offering the vaccine with all health boards primarily inviting this age group to vaccination centres with some areas going through schools.
“The strength of this model is that it is based on local knowledge and it is flexible and agile so it can change depending on the circumstances.
“The vaccine is not mandatory and people can choose whether to have the vaccine or not.
“There will be appropriate information made available for children and young people and their parents to make up their minds about vaccination. Parents or guardians will be asked to give consent.
“I encourage parents, guardians, children and young people to discuss together whether or not to have the vaccination.”
The four nations Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) were asked to advise further after the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised against routine Covid vaccination for this age group.
The JCVI said that for children and young people aged 12 to 15 who do not have underlying health conditions the individual health benefits from vaccination are slightly greater than the potential known harms, but that the margin of benefit was too small for them to recommend a universal programme of vaccination.
They added that, should Ministers agree there were wider issues to consider which were outside the remit of JCVI to evaluate, for example, education and mental health issues, then the four CMOs were best placed to advise on it.
The minister added: “I am particularly concerned that some studies show that one in seven children who have Covid infections are thought to develop post Covid syndrome.
“After careful consideration, on public health grounds, the UK CMOs recommend that all children and young people aged 12-15 not already covered by existing JCVI advice should be offered a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
“The UK CMOs have decided that the additional likely benefits of reducing educational disruption and the resulting reduction in public health harm provide enough extra advantage to recommend in favour of vaccinating this group. In addition, there is a small advantage at an individual level as already identified by the JCVI.”
Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said it was the right decision.
She said: “We welcome the decision to offer Covid vaccinations to 12 to 15-year-olds as a vital step in reducing the risk of educational disruption and keeping children in the classroom.
"We know there is a view that this programme is not needed on health grounds alone, but it is important to recognise that educational disruption can harm both the learning of pupils and their mental health and wellbeing.
"Vaccinations provide a route to a more stable situation for schools and their pupils and this is in the best interests of young people.”
Teenagers aged 16 have been offered the vaccine in vaccination centres alongside adults and not in schools.
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