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PHE to update Covid vaccination guidance to include over-16s with health conditions

over 16s

Exclusive Public Health England (PHE) will update its guidance to reflect new advice that over-16s with underlying health conditions should be vaccinated against Covid-19, Pulse has learned.

Previous PHE guidance, published last week, said that the Covid vaccine is not for routine use in those under 18 years old as vaccine trials have ‘only just begun’ in children.

However, the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) latest prioritisation list includes those 16 and over with underlying health conditions. 

Now a PHE spokesperson has confirmed to Pulse that its guidance will be updated to reflect the latest JCVI advice, including the change from 18+ to 16+.

They said that the new Covid chapter of PHE’s Green Book was published in anticipation of the JCVI’s advice, to help the NHS with its vaccine planning.

The Green Book chapter, published on Friday, said: ‘SARS-CoV-2 vaccine trials have only just begun in children and there are, therefore, very limited data on safety and immunogenicity in this group. 

‘Children and young people have a very low risk of Covid-19, severe disease or death due to SARS-CoV-2 compared to adults and so Covid-19 vaccines are not routinely recommended for children and young people under 18 years of age.’

However, vaccination ‘may be considered for children with serious neuro-disabilities (including cerebral palsy, severe autism and Down’s syndrome) who spend regular time in institutional settings’, it added.

This should be ‘mainly restricted’ to older children aged 12 and above who have ‘higher risk’ of becoming infected and seriously ill, it said.

The guidance added: ‘Recommendations on vaccinating children with other underlying conditions will be reviewed after the initial roll-out phase by which time additional data on use of the vaccines in adults should allow a better assessment of risks and benefits.’

But the JCVI’s guidance, published yesterday, lists ‘all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality’ as its sixth priority.

It also defines the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group – the fourth priority – as starting from 16 years of age.

Speaking in a press conference yesterday, MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: ‘The UK Government has now accepted [the MHRA’s] advice and has made the decision to approve the vaccine for use with some conditions in adults aged 16 and over.’

GPs could be set to start Covid vaccines by mid-December now that the MHRA has given approval for the delivery of the Pfizer vaccine candidate. 

Ahead of approval from the medicines regulator, NHS England published the enhanced service specifications, which said vaccinations by GPs will begin at least ten days after NHS England gives the green light.

But the Welsh Government has said that it ‘will not be possible’ to vaccinate care home residents with the Pfizer Covid vaccine due to practical constraints, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted there were logistical problems to overcome.

Meanwhile, GPs themselves will be prioritised for Covid vaccination based on their personal risk level, exposure and amount of contact with vulnerable people, the Government’s vaccines advisory body has said.

Latest JCVI prioritisation list for Covid vaccinations:

  1. Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. All those 80 years of age and over. Frontline health and social care workers
  3. All those 75 years of age and over
  4. All those 70 years of age and over. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  5. All those 65 years of age and over
  6. All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  7. All those 60 years of age and over
  8. All those 55 years of age and over
  9. All those 50 years of age and over

Source: JCVI