TUESDAY, Sept. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- While in the United States preteens and teens aged 12 to 15 have been eligible for COVID-19 vaccines since the spring, the vaccines are only now becoming available for that age group in the United Kingdom.
According to the Associated Press, on Monday Britain gave its approval for use of the vaccines in children 12 and older as part of a "tool kit" to avoid lockdowns this fall and winter.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to announce the plan on Tuesday at a news conference.
The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland recommended on Monday that children aged 12 to 15 get a single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccinations in this age group should commence next week, according to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Even though other countries â€” including the United States, Canada, France and Italy â€” approved COVID-19 vaccines for older children months ago, the United Kingdom has hesitated, preferring instead to push for vaccination in people 16 and older. Currently, almost 90% of Britons in that age group have had at least one dose of vaccine, the AP reported.
Earlier in September, Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization did approve the use of the vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds with underlying health conditions. But it held off on their use in healthy kids in this age group, reasoning that severe illness is very rare in these individuals and overall health benefits would be marginal, the AP said.
However, vaccination could be warranted since children can spread infection to other more vulnerable people, the committee said.
Kids aged 12 to 15 will get a first dose of vaccine through their schools, and it's not yet been decided whether they will receive a second dose.
Johnson's Conservative government is hoping that a push for vaccination, rather than lockdowns, will wrestle the COVID-19 crisis under control. Infections in Britain are now at levels 10 times higher than were seen a year ago, the AP noted, but vaccination has made severe illness much less likely.
Vaccine passports to gain access to popular public venues â€” already in widespread use in some European countries â€” will not be used anytime soon in Britain, the government says. Such a system is a "huge intrusion into people's lives," Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Sunday, the AP reported.
Boston Children's Hospital has more on COVID-19 vaccinations for older kids and teens.
SOURCE: Associated Press