The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), one of the bodies that advises the British government, has recommended that healthy people aged 12 to 15 years not be vaccinated against Covid, considering that the benefits of immunization for this group are very uncertain and there is no conclusive evidence on the effect on transmission in the short and medium term.
In addition, the vaccine has less benefit for this age group, which naturally has no high risk of contracting Covid.
The agency says it has opted for a “precautionary approach” as there is a —small — risk in immunization: “There is increasing robust evidence of an association between vaccination with mRNA vaccines and myocarditis, a very rare adverse event” .
Known cases are still in the process of being described by scientists, but they are “potentially serious”, according to the committee.
A similar precaution was adopted by the US government, which is considering starting the immunization of this age group by the end of the year.
In Chile, more than 650,000 children over the age of 12 received a first dose, and this week the immunization was approved from the age of 6 onwards. In Spain, 12- to 17-year-olds were given a dose of Pfizer earlier this month, before school started.
Also in the city of São Paulo, young people aged 12 to 16 years without comorbidities began to be vaccinated this Monday (6).
Overall, the British committee considers the benefits of vaccination to be marginally greater than the known potential harms, but says there is considerable uncertainty as to the magnitude of these potential harms.
According to the JVCI, as long-term data on adverse reactions accumulates, greater certainty may allow for a reconsideration of benefits and harms. But this data can take several months to be available.
Recommended for children with health problems
In previous assessments, the JVCI had recommended the application of Pfizer’s immunizing agent to both all 16- and 17-year-olds and children aged 12 to 15 with health problems, including type 1 diabetes, congenital heart disease, sickle cell disease. and hematological disorders.
Vaccination is also recommended for children aged 12 to 15 years with poorly controlled asthma (which requires continuous use of medication), congenital malformations of the kidneys or digestive system, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and Down syndrome, among other groups of risk.
The committee emphasizes that its decisions take into account only the impact on children, without considering variables such as availability of vaccine, future supply or costs associated with carrying out a program, nor possible broader social impacts, including educational benefits.
According to Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Edinburgh, the JVCI was not actually designed to assess other impacts of general immunization on children, such as education, and these broader issues should be addressed by policymakers. British government policy.
Peter English, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the JVCI “seems to have deliberately left the door open for the government to take into account the indirect benefits of implementing vaccination in this age group.”
The British government fears that the start of the new school year will help to form a fourth wave of contamination, especially after the British Ministry of Education waived preventive measures such as the use of masks and quarantines for contact groups.
Other scientists criticized the committee’s own cost/benefit calculation for not taking into account the impact of long Covid on children who contract the coronavirus.
According to Nathalie MacDermott of King’s College London, data recently released by the CLoCK study show that persistent and disabling symptoms for more than 15 weeks after the disease occur in 1 in 7 children and young people.
Another problem, according to Professor Simon Clarke of the University of Reading (England), is that the JCVI has focused on risk for the specific age group, not risk for society in general.
“In the UK, children of all ages receive a multitude of vaccines and it would be wrong to think that they are only receiving them to protect their own health”, he says, citing flu and rubella immunization, which would prioritize preventing transmission for other groups.
“And boys are vaccinated in high school against the human papillomavirus, mainly to protect women from cervical cancer.”
For Clarke, by not recommending general vaccination of children aged 12 to 15 years, the JCVI expands the opportunities for the virus to spread in the community.