The UK’s 16- to 17-year-olds can expect to be offered a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine soon, with the government’s independent vaccines advisory committee making the recommendation on Monday.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) also recommended mRNA booster doses for all adults aged 40 to 49 years in a televised briefing.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently the only CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccine that is authorised for use on children over 12 years old. The JCVI advised giving one dose of the vaccine to 16- to 17-year-olds on Aug. 4.
The committee on Monday said the older adolescent group should receive a second dose at least 12 weeks after their first shots, or at least 12 weeks after positive tests if they are later than the first shot.
The UK’s Health Security Agency suggested in a statement that the longer interval between the two shots in Canada and the UK correlates with a lower risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, following the second dose than in countries where people received their second shots sooner.
“The latest available data indicate that myocarditis following vaccination usually resolves within a short time, most cases respond well to treatment, and where information is available, no major complications have been identified in the medium term (months),” it added.
The UK’s medicines regulator welcomed the JCVI’s recommendations and sought to reassure people of the short- to medium-term safety of the vaccines for under-18s.
“We’ve closely monitored the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in individuals under 18. Our review of reports of suspected side effects does not raise any additional safety issues specific to this age group,” Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said in the same televised briefing on Monday.
Long-term safety data of the vaccines are yet to accrue. Raine urged people to continue reporting suspected adverse reactions to CCP virus vaccines via the MHRA’s Yellow Card Scheme.
Asked about the lower vaccine take-up rate among children in the UK, Raine and JCVI’s professor Wei Shen Lim said they’re now more reassured that the vaccine looks “much safer than was feared initially.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam said he agreed with Raine and Lim, adding that parents and children must decide for themselves.
“We should allow them the time and the space and give them the highest quality information so they can make those decisions in their own time,” Van-Tam said.
The JCVI also expanded its recommendation of mRNA booster vaccines to all adults aged over 40, as the effect of the initial two doses wanes.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are recommended as boosters given six months after their second doses, irrespective of the vaccines given for the first and second doses.
Lim said it is normal practice to halve the dosage in follow-up vaccinations, as is being done with the Moderna booster shots, adding that “the half dose of the booster dose is also expected to be associated with fewer adverse events in the UK.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed the statement on the intervals between vaccine doses. The Epoch Times regrets the error.