What do Israel, the USA and several member states of the EU all have in common? Mass vaccination campaigns which are being rolled out to 12-17 year old’s with millions already being jabbed.

Just a matter of days ago, the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization) brought us a fraction more in line with these countries, recommending the rollout be extended to all 16 and 17-year-olds. However, this makes little improvement in the bigger picture. 

While it is good news that a large number of older secondary age school children will be eligible and hopefully double jabbed halfway through the winter term, many older teens who can still drive case rates and hold the key to herd immunity remain denied. Yet we have no idea on when the JCVI will come to terms with the fact many countries are ahead of us in vaccinating 12-15-year-olds and our own health regulator has approved the jab for this age group.

A few weeks ago I released a paper with Centre Think Tank on rolling out vaccines to under 18s, and the paper outlined the importance of including 12-17-year-olds, and where possible younger children, in the mass vaccinations. We concluded it was important in: 

  1. Cutting case rates. With 12-17-year-olds having the highest prevalence in the 3rd wave which shows their vulnerability to high infection rates and ability thus to introduce it into their households.
  2. Reaching herd immunity – whereby the ‘wild type’ first variant had a herd immunity threshold of around 70%,, two major mutations since meant one could assume the threshold was now above 80%. Meaning children making 20% of the population would need to be included.
  3. Safeguarding our children’s education – and preventing positive-case driven isolations and further disruptions to education with schools becoming the new, unvaccinated drivers of another wave as vaccines have the ability to reduce transmissions.
  4. Preventing another, potentially dangerous variant which undoes the progress of the last 8 months. Early studies show vaccinations reduce the ability of the virus to mutate before we can get a grip of it and reach herd immunity as well as the vaccine’s ability to cut the prevalence of cases, as seen with highly vaccinated older age groups who had low case rates and only showed a small increase despite the large 3rd wave.

We know rolling out the vaccines to these age groups would make a significant difference as take-up would still be high. The UK has always been a country with some of the least vaccine hesitancy while other countries with higher vaccine hesitancy, such as the US, still have significant rates of vaccinating children.

This, coupled with a survey from the ONS suggesting 9 in 10 parents back their children being vaccinated, gives us major evidence that take-up would be enough. Therefore, expanding the rollout to these ages would make a significant difference. On top of this, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the alternative of sending the vaccine abroad. 

While at 100% take-up, roughly 8.6million jabs would be given to 4.3million 12-17-year olds, this is minute and would make little difference to the billions that need it in developing nations compared to the school children in need of it here, especially when you consider we would still have around 670million spare due to our high order volume by my estimations using numbers from ONS, which as a bulk means a lot more to many that need it.

In essence, my paper with Centre makes it clear we are already late but not disastrously so in including 16-17-year-olds in vaccinations, but if we don’t hurry we could cause real disruption if we don’t make the step to include 12-15-year-olds.

We understand its necessity in protecting our children’s education and controlling and defeating the virus and we can witness its safety in dozens of countries around the world with similar mass vaccination campaigns to us, we just need to do it.

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