All 5- to 11-year-olds in Wales and Scotland will be offered vaccination against the CCP virus—the virus that causes COVID-19, ministers said on Tuesday.
The announcements came ahead of the publication of recommendations from the UK’s vaccination advisory group that’s reportedly delayed by the UK government.
In an unusual move, Wales’s Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said she had read the “yet to be published” report by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and would start offering the vaccines to the young age group, although not “as a matter of urgency.”
Vaccination and pandemic policies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are set by local legislatures and administrations, while in England, policies are decided by the overarching UK government in Westminster.
But the governments have mostly coordinated their moves with each other and their advisory bodies throughout the pandemic, including announcing their offers of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccines shortly after the JCVI publishes its recommendations.
Responding to questions during a Plenary session at the Welsh Parliament on Tuesday, Morgan told lawmakers she thought it was “a shame” and “perplexing” that the JCVI report had not been published.
“In relation to vaccination of children, the JCVI has yet to publish its report, although there are lots of clues in The Guardian and other places where there seems to have been lots of leaks come out,” Morgan said, referring to media reports that said the UK government had received the recommendation from the JCVI to make “non-urgent” CCP virus vaccination offer to all young children aged five and over more than a week ago but won’t announce its decision until Feb. 21.
“It’s a shame and it’s perplexing to understand why that has not been published yet,” she said.
“But I have seen a copy of that advice and we will be commencing the rollout of vaccinations for five to 11-year-olds.”
Morgan said the expansion of the vaccination programme to young children won’t be done “as a matter of urgency … partly because the risk isn’t as great to that cohort,” but added that “they have to balance that against the prospect of missing school.”
Shortly after Morgan’s statement, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that her ministers have considered the draft JCVI advice and “are content to accept its recommendations.”
She said the Scottish government’s intention has been to “follow the clinical and scientific evidence available to us” throughout the pandemic and that the discussions of how to deliver the vaccines have “already begun.”
In September 2021, the JCVI refused to recommend giving the vaccines to healthy 12- to 15-year-olds on health grounds alone as it considered “the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms but … there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the potential harms.”
But the governments later offered the vaccines to the young teen group, after the chief medical officers recommended the move based on wider considerations, including the “impact on education.”
The UK’s medicines regulation in December approved two low doses of a pediatric formulation of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, saying it hadn’t identified any “new safety concerns.”
The JCVI told The Epoch Times in an email that it will make the announcement “very shortly with a full statement” while the UK government said it’s still reviewing the advice.
“We are reviewing the JCVI’s advice as part of wider decision-making ahead of the publication of our long-term strategy for living with COVID-19. More detail will be set out shortly,” a government spokesperson said.
Before the UK Parliament adjourned for half-term, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers he will present the government’s strategy for living with COVID-19 on Feb. 21, the first day after the recess.
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, on Feb. 9 said he believed the UK had “passed the point” where vaccines would make much difference as “the benefits are marginal, and it’s probably too late because most kids have already had Omicron.”
According to a study published in Nature Medicine journal in November 2021, between March 2020 to February 2021, 25 children in England died due to COVID-19, meaning the mortality rate in this age group was two per million. The children who died of the disease were more likely to be teenagers than younger children, the study said. Among the 25, six appeared to have no underlying health conditions, including two who died of pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, which has been temporally associated with the CCP virus as well as CCP virus vaccination.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight cases of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation, had been reported in children aged 5 to 11 years who received Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 16.
The CDC said in November that adolescents ages 12 to 17 years were at a higher risk of myocarditis than children ages 5 to 11 years but noted that the risk of developing the disease, or pericarditis—an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart—after receiving the COVID-19 vaccines is lower than the risk of myocarditis associated with COVID-19 infection in adolescents and adults.
The agency also said no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis had been reported in a clinical trial for children ages 5 to 11 years but noted that the study was not designed to assess the risk of myocarditis.
Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.