Healthy children aged 12 to 15 should be offered one dose of a Covid vaccine, the UK’s chief medical officers say.
In a letter to ministers the four CMOs said it would help reduce disruption to education.
The move means around three million children across the UK could be eligible for the jab, which is expected to be given through schools, amid ongoing concerns about a rise in cases following the summer holidays.
It comes after the government’s vaccine committee said there was not enough benefit to warrant it on health grounds alone – but they said ministers could take into account other factors.
In the letter they said closures of schools was unlikely, but disruption to face-to-face education was likely given people who test positive have to isolate for 10 days.
It will now be up to ministers whether to accept the recommendation of the four CMOs and if they agree, children will be offered the Pfizer jab.
It is likely to be given in schools and parental consent will not be needed if the child is considered competent to give consent themselves.
The CMOs warned missing face-to-face school had a “massive impact” on children, both physically, emotional and in terms of their life chances and added that is was not possible to quantify to what extent vaccination would help reduce this. But they said “on balance” the benefits in reducing disruption and the harm it caused provided “sufficient extra advantage” to warrant extending vaccination to healthy children in this age group.
They said poorer children had been hit hardest by the pandemic and could gain the most from vaccination.
Children with health conditions and those living with clinically vulnerable people have already been told they can get the vaccine.
The CMOs have asked for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to look at whether second doses should be given to those aged 12 to 15 once more data comes through internationally.