Vaccinating 12 – 15-year-olds could save up to 6,500 lives, doctors say, as pressure grows on jab watchdogs to give the go-ahead
- A new study by Exeter University says vaccinating 12 -to 15-year-olds is urgent
- Claim it would cut the number of Covid deaths and hospitalisations by a fifth
- UK vaccine watchdogs under pressure to approve the roll-out of jabs for children
UK vaccine watchdogs are under pressure to approve the roll-out of jabs for children as young as 12 as doctors say it could save thousands of lives by Christmas.
They say vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds is urgent as it would cut the number of Covid deaths and hospitalisations by a fifth – and protect the youngsters themselves.
The dramatic findings, seen by The Mail on Sunday, come in a new study by Exeter University Medical School, set to be published this week.
But it also comes amid anger that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has still not given the go-ahead for the shots.
A new study by Exeter University, set to be published this week, says vaccinating 12 -to 15-year-olds is urgent as it would cut the number of Covid deaths and hospitalisations by a fifth (stock image)
That is despite the fact that other countries, including France and the United States, have been vaccinating children as young as 12 for weeks.
Even Australia – which has dramatically lower rates of Covid than the UK – has now approved vaccines for 12 to 15s, with its vaccines committee saying the benefits ‘far outweigh the potential risks’.
Tory MP and former Cabinet Minister David Jones said last night: ‘It is welcome that preparations are now well under way to jab 12- to-15-year-olds but there is a danger of missing the boat, given children will very shortly be returning to school.’
Another Tory MP said privately that he was ‘at a loss as why the JCVI is taking so long’ to give the go-ahead.
However, others insist schoolchildren should only be jabbed to protect their own health – not to save older generations more at risk from Covid.
Sources said the JCVI is expected to make a decision within ten days.
But the Exeter University study made clear there is no time to lose.
Dr David Strain, senior clinical lecturer at the university’s medical school and a working hospital consultant, said the Delta variant had ‘changed the rules of engagement’.
He said: ‘This new variant produces 1,000 times more copies of itself, which means 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds who previously couldn’t generate enough copies of virus to infect their parents now can.’ And while earlier strains rarely made youngsters very sick, Delta was causing more to fall seriously ill. A quarter of Covid patients at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s respiratory support unit this summer are under 25, he said.
It follows Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s (pictured) instruction to the NHS last week to start preparing to jab 12- to 15-year-olds amid fears children starting back at school could trigger a new Covid wave
He added he believed vaccinating younger secondary school pupils was ‘essential’.
He and his team predict jabbing all 12-to-15s will cut total Covid-related deaths by 18 per cent, and hospitalisations by 21 per cent, compared to the current strategy – vaccinating just youngsters with health conditions plus those who live with ‘at-risk’ others.
Under a conservative scenario, jabbing 12- to 15-year-olds could prevent 28,000 hospitalisations across all age groups and save 2,250 lives. But if there is a bigger autumn wave, vaccinating younger adolescents could stop 77,000 hospitalisations and save 6,500 lives. Explaining why vaccinating a relatively small cohort could make a big difference, Dr Strain said Covid was now rife in youngsters, who act as super-spreaders. Failing to vaccinate them would increase the risk of another lockdown.
It is thought the main reason the JCVI is hesitating is concern the Pfizer and Moderna jabs given to young people can trigger a heart condition called myocarditis. But Dr Strain said the risk was very low – four per million in 20- to 25-year-olds. Even if the risk in under-18s was double that, ‘it would only translate to 37 UK cases if we vaccinate all adolescents’.
There have been two deaths from vaccine-induced myocarditis worldwide, he said. But at least four per cent of young people made ill by the virus suffered long Covid.
Immunologist Professor Peter Openshaw said for teens ‘it’s much safer to become immune through vaccination than infection’.
A source said the JCVI was considering all available evidence.