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Recall Parliament to debate vaccination of children before this is rolled out

Submitted by Alex Hicks on Friday 6th August 2021

Published on Friday 6th August 2021

Current status: Open

Open until: Sunday 6th February 2022

Current Signatures: 27,135
(count is updated approximately hourly)

Relevant Departments

Tagged with

17 year olds ~ Children ~ Covid ~ Covid-19 ~ Healthy ~ Held ~ JCVI ~ Julie ~ measures ~ Parliament ~ Parliamentary ~ Recess ~ Universities ~ vaccine ~ weeks ~ Young people

Petition Action

Recall Parliament to debate vaccination of children before this is rolled out

Petition Details

Parliament should debate vaccination of children, before any healthy children are vaccinated. A full explanation of the reasons for the change in the JCVI's advice should be provided for the debate. No vaccinations of non-vulnerable children should take place until after the debate has been held.

Additional Information

On 19th July JCVI stated that health benefits of universal vaccination in children and young people below the age of 18 years do not outweigh the potential risks. 2 weeks later JCVI have advised vaccinating healthy 16-17 year olds. This advice changed during the parliamentary summer recess, therefore MPs have had no opportunity to debate before the measures are implemented.

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Government Response

The Government responded to this petition on Wednesday 25th August 2021

Government evaluated evidence and assessed expert opinion before deciding to routinely vaccinate young people aged 16 to 17. MPs had the option to be briefed and raise questions during an All MP call.

Vaccines used in the UK must be authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This independent regulator decides which vaccines may be prescribed within the UK and which individuals or groups of individuals may receive them. Any prescriber (doctor) is free once a vaccine is authorised by the MHRA to prescribe it. Pfizer and Moderna are now authorised for those aged 12-17 years, and therefore can be prescribed for this age group. Rather than a matter for Parliament, authorisation of a vaccine is a matter for the regulator, and prescribing an authorised vaccine is then a matter of individual clinical judgement.

Once vaccines are authorised by MHRA, the Government decides whether they should be prioritised for use in the NHS, and if so for which groups. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is the independent body made up of scientists and clinical experts who provide advice to Government on immunisations for the prevention of infections and/or disease following due consideration of the evidence on the burden of disease, on vaccine safety and efficacy and on the impact of immunisation strategies.

The JCVI advice is provided from a clinical perspective, and the Health Secretary has a statutory duty to consider it under the Health Protection (Vaccine) Regulations 2009. Parliamentary approval is not a requirement of any decisions the Government makes on vaccination priorities including for COVID-19. Each new decision the Government makes on COVID-19 vaccination priorities is however notified to Parliament via a written ministerial statement. During a recess period, the written ministerial statement (WMS) cannot be laid until Parliament returns. The WMS can be laid retrospectively.

All those aged 16-17 who are at risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19, or at high risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable people, including those who are employed in, studying or in training for health and social care work, have already had the opportunity to be vaccinated. They were included in Phase One of the adult programme, which began in December 2020.

Throughout the pandemic, the JCVI has kept its advice on the use of COVID-19 vaccines under review as more safety and effectiveness data becomes available. JCVI set out in advice to the Health Secretary on 2 July 2021 (published on 19 July) that after consideration of current data they recommended that vaccination be offered additionally to defined ‘at risk’ groups of 12-15 year olds. This advice follows JCVI’s deliberations on the potential risks and benefits of vaccinating persons aged 12 to 17-years-old, taking into consideration the latest available data.

On 4 August 2021, the JCVI provided further advice regarding the vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 17. The JCVI concluded that data accrued since they had provided their initial advice on 2 July 2021 now suggested that the balance of risks and benefits was in favour of offering those aged 16 and 17 their first dose of COVID-19 vaccination. Therefore, the JCVI currently advises that all 16-17 year olds should now be offered their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The Government has accepted this advice.

At the current time, JCVI does not advise routine universal vaccination of children and young people younger than 16 years of age. The committee will continue to keep this advice under review as more safety and effectiveness information becomes available on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in this age group.

When formulating advice in relation to childhood immunisations, including COVID-19 vaccinations, the JCVI has consistently held that the main focus of its decision should be the benefit to children and young people themselves, weighed against any potential harms. Any government decision on deployment of vaccines has and will also continue to be made on the basis that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks to those people who are vaccinated. Health is a devolved matter and the Government continues to work closely with the Devolved Administrations to ensure successful delivery across the whole of the UK.

A WMS cannot be laid when parliament is not sitting. A WMS will be laid on this issue at the earliest possible opportunity once parliament returns. In the meantime, a letter has been written to the respective Select Committee chairs and a ‘Dear Colleagues’ letter has been sent to all MPs in England. Additionally, Jo Churchill held an All MP call on the day of the announcement to ensure MPs were fully briefed and had the opportunity to ask questions.

Department for Health and Social Care

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