Petition Do not vaccinate children against COVID-19 until Phase 3 trials are complete
A risk vs benefit calculation does not support giving COVID-19 vaccines, which use novel technologies and are still in Phase 3 trials, to healthy children.
Any rollout should not start until trials are complete and all findings are published and peer-reviewed on long-term safety data.
Healthy children are at low risk from COVID-19 yet face known and unknown risks from COVID-19 vaccines. Rare, but serious, adverse events and deaths are being reported to monitoring systems around the world. Official guidance is updated as the side-effects become more apparent. Giving COVID-19 vaccines to healthy children to protect adults is unethical and unjustifiable. The Government has an ethical duty to act with caution and proportionality.
This response was given on 7 June 2021
The Government will continue to evaluate evidence and assess expert opinion before making a decision on routinely vaccinating children under 18 years old.
No decision has been made by the Government regarding the routine inclusion of children under 18 years within the COVID-19 vaccination programme at a population level. The Government will be guided by the advice of the UK’s independent medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), whose role is to ensure medicines, devices and vaccines work effectively and are safe for use.
MHRA have now authorised the use of Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12-15. This follows a rigorous review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group by the MHRA and the Government’s independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM). Over 2,000 children aged 12-15 years were studied as part of the randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials. There were no cases of COVID-19 from 7 days after the second dose in the vaccinated group, compared with 16 cases in the placebo group. In addition, data on neutralising antibodies showed the vaccine working at the same level as seen in adults aged 16-25 years. No new side effects were identified and the safety data in children was comparable with that seen in young adults. As in young adults, the majority of adverse events were mild to moderate and relating to reactogenicity, such as a sore arm or tiredness.
Any vaccine must first go through the usual rigorous testing and development process and meet strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness before it can be deployed. There are extensive checks and balances at every stage of the development of a vaccine. The data looked at includes all the results from laboratory studies, clinical trials, manufacturing and quality controls and testing of the product. The public should be very confident that all tests are completed to the very highest standards.
For all vaccines authorised for supply in the UK, including COVID-19 vaccines, each candidate is assessed by teams of scientists and clinicians on a case by case basis and is only authorised once it has met robust standards of effectiveness, safety and quality set by MHRA.
Once a vaccine is approved for use in the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent body made up of scientific and clinical experts, will provide advice to the Government on which safe, effective vaccines to use, and advise on prioritisation at a population level. The committee’s membership is made up of public health and scientific experts who have considered and continue to consider the impact of COVID-19 and population prioritisation as new data emerges.
Now that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been authorised for use in children aged 12-15 in the UK, we will be guided by the advice of experts, including the JCVI, on any potential deployment of COVID-19 vaccination in children under the age of 18.
No decisions have been made by the Government on the routine COVID-19 vaccination of children. In line with the advice of the JCVI for Phase One of the vaccination programme, children/young adults aged 16-18 could be offered a vaccine if they have an underlying condition that put them at increased risk from COVID-19. However, the JCVI currently advises that children under 16 years of age, even if they are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), are at low risk of serious morbidity and mortality and given the absence of safety and efficacy data on COVID-19 vaccines, are not currently recommended for routine COVID-19 vaccination.
Following infection, almost all children will also have asymptomatic infection or mild disease. Therefore, only children under 16 who are at very high risk of exposure and serious outcomes, such as those with severe neuro-disabilities that require residential care, may be considered for a COVID-19 vaccination. This is given the very high risk of exposure to infection and outbreaks in residential settings. Decisions to vaccinate such children should be made on a case by case basis, with consultation taking place between clinicians, parents/carers and children. The MHRA updated its authorisation guidance in relation to the currently approved vaccines in February to allow this approach.
The JCVI continues to look at the emerging evidence on COVID-19, and will offer further advice to the Government if and when evidence is found that routinely vaccinating children under 18 years old would further reduce overall mortality, morbidity and hospitalisation which is the overarching objective of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Department for Health and Social Care
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Other parliamentary business
Government announces plans to expand Covid-19 vaccine offer to children
On Monday 19 July, MPs questioned Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, on the Government's response to Covid-19, including plans relating to the vaccination of under-18s, following a ministerial statement.
In his statement, the Minister outlined the Government's plans to:
- continue to vaccinate 16 and 17-year-olds who are in an at-risk group
- expand the offer of the vaccine to some younger children with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk of covid-19
- offer a vaccine to children and young people aged 12 to 17 who live with someone who is immunosuppressed
Watch the Government statement and MPs' questions: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/9b8f813c-e5e4-4a2a-9c61-bcc3f4e6c762?in=16:37:06
The statement follows advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on immunisation, on COVID-19 vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 17 years.
Read the JCVI's advice: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-of-children-and-young-people-aged-12-to-17-years-jcvi-statement/jvci-statement-on-covid-19-vaccination-of-children-and-young-people-aged-12-to-17-years-15-july-2021
What is a ministerial statement?
Ministerial statements are a way for Ministers to bring an important matter to the attention of MPs, often at short notice. You can find out more about them here: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/statements/
Ministers are the MPs and members of the House of Lords who are in the Government. They are appointed by the Prime Minister and each given a specific area of government policy to oversee, for example education, health and social care, or national defence. Some senior Ministers are also referred to as Secretaries of State. Ministers speak on behalf of the Government during parliamentary debates and must answer questions put to them by other MPs or members of the House of Lords.
MPs to debate and take evidence on Covid-19 vaccination
Next week there will be two debates where MPs will discuss Covid-19 vaccination, including one specifically on the vaccination of children against Covid-19, and the Education Committee will take evidence on the inclusion of children in the Government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.
Debate on Covid-19 vaccination on Monday 20 September
The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs that oversees parliamentary petitions) has scheduled a debate on Covid-19 vaccination, following two petitions on this subject that have received over 100,000 signatures.
The debate will take place in Westminster Hall, the second chamber of the House of Commons, on Monday 20 September, and will last up to 90 minutes. It will be led by a member of the Petitions Committee, and the Government will send a Minister to respond.
Watch the debate (from 6pm, Monday 20 Sept): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7_2B4d48PU
You can also read a transcript of the debate a few hours after it has finished: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-09-20
Find out more about how Westminster Hall debates work:
Debate on the vaccination of children against Covid-19 on Tuesday 21 September
MPs will debate the vaccination of children against Covid-19 on Tuesday 21 September in Westminster Hall. The debate will be led by Miriam Cates MP.
This will be a general debate. General debates allow MPs to debate important issues, however they do not end in a vote nor can they change the law.
The debate will start at 9.30am and last for up to an hour and a half.
You'll be able to read a transcript of the debate a few hours after it happens: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-09-21
Find out more about how Westminster Hall debates work:
Evidence session on Covid-19 and the vaccination of children
The House of Commons Education Committee will question England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty on Wednesday 22 September on the inclusion of children in the Government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.
You'll be able to watch the evidence session live from 2pm on Wednesday 22 September: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Guide
Find out more about the evidence session here: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/203/education-committee/news/157461/chief-medical-officer-chris-whitty-to-give-evidence-to-education-committee-on-covid-vaccination-of-children/
The Education Committee is a cross-party group of MPs appointed by the House of Commons to scrutinise the work of the Department for Education, the Government department responsible for responsible for children's services and education in England.
Find out more about the Education Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/203/education-committee/
Follow the Committee on Twitter for updates on its work: https://twitter.com/CommonsEd
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