4. Updated policies for under 18s
Vaccination of under 18s
16-17 Year olds
On 4 August 2021, the JCVI advised that in addition to the existing offer of two doses of vaccine to 16 to 17 year olds in 'at-risk' groups, all 16 to 17 year olds should be offered a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, and we moved quickly to operationalise this advice. This group were able to self-register for an appointment from 6 August 2021, and attend drop-in centres across all mainland Health Boards from 10 August 2021. It is expected that everyone in this age group will have been offered a vaccination appointment by the end of September. As of 28 September 2021 71% of this group have had a single dose of vaccine.
The JCVI are currently considering whether it would be appropriate to offer a second vaccine dose to increase the level of protection and contribute towards longer term protection. We await their view on this matter.
12 – 15 year olds
On 3 September 2021, the JCVI expanded the list of underlying health conditions which they advised should make clinically vulnerable 12 to 15 year olds eligible for vaccination. Those children covered by the JCVI advice who have specific underlying conditions or disabilities will be offered two doses, at the regular interval of eight weeks apart.
The JCVI did not recommend universal COVID-19 vaccination for 12 to 15 year olds without underlying health conditions as they concluded that although there were benefits to vaccinating this group, the margin of benefit, based primarily on a health perspective, was considered too small to support a universal programme of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12 to 15 year olds at this time. The JCVI suggested that the governments may wish to seek further views on wider societal and educational impacts from the Chief Medical Officers of the UK four nations.
The four nations governments instructed their Chief Medical Officers to consider the matter from a broader perspective. The outcome of this work was a published statement from the four Chief Medical Officers on 13 September 2021 recommending all children aged 12-15 should be offered one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, taking into account wider benefits to young people other than just COVID-19 protection benefits.
Within their advice, the Chief Medical Officers highlighted the need for the offer of vaccination to children and young people must be accompanied by appropriate information to enable children and young people, and those with parental responsibility, to be adequately appraised of the potential harms and benefits of vaccination as part of the informed consent process prior to vaccination. Further considerations on informed consent are set out in the Chief Medical Officer letter published on 17 September 2021.
To that end material was made available in advance of drop in vaccination centres offering young people and their parents or carers from 20 September 2021 onwards.
Drop-in vaccinations will continue be available for this age group for those who have read the available information online, and wish to be vaccinated at a place and time that best suits them. Letters are being issued inviting individuals to a scheduled appointment at community based clinics from week beginning 27 September 2021 and for school based sessions in some more rural areas. Health Board vaccination clinics will be in a variety of locations, allowing parents and guardians to attend; and for those coming to school sessions, parents have been invited to speak to a drop in clinic vaccinator in advance if they wish a to ask any questions.
After scheduled community appointments, there will be a rolling offer of drop ins in communities and schools to ensure anyone who has not been vaccinated that decides that they want to be, gets a further chance.
As of 7:30 am on 28 September 2021, 28,386 children aged 12 to 15 years have had a first dose; this is 12% of the eligible population.