Children aged 12-17 must wait 12 weeks after catching Covid before jab

Children aged 12-17 must wait 12 weeks after catching Covid before getting jabbed because it may reduce their risk of rare heart complication, health chiefs rule

  • Vaccine advisory panel said evidence longer gap reduces the risk of myocarditis 
  • Heart inflammation complication is very rare side effect suffered by jabbed kids
  • Twelve to 15-year-olds are still only being offered one dose of Pfizer’s vaccine

Children should wait at least 12 weeks after catching Covid to get their jab, Britain’s vaccine advisory panel recommended today.   

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said there was evidence the longer gap reduces the risk of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation reported in a small number of children after vaccination.

The change in guidance applies only to healthy children aged 12 to 17. 

Children who caught Covid previously only had to wait four weeks, which remains the advice for adults over the age of 18 and children extremely vulnerable to Covid.

Twelve to 15-year-olds are still only being offered one dose of Pfizer’s vaccine while officials monitor myocarditis rates in other countries.

But as of this week, 16 and 17-year-olds can now come forward for the second jab after the UK’s regulator decided the benefit of the jabs ‘clearly’ outweighed the risk. 

So far, more than half of older teenagers have come forward for a first dose and nearly a third of 12 to 15-year-olds have had the initial jab.

Fifteen-year-old Quinn Foakes receiving a Covid-19 vaccination at Belfairs Academy in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in September

The UK Health Security Agency, which announced the move today, admitted that it would slow down the rollout of the vaccine programme. 

But it insisted children should still have high levels of natural immunity, given that half of secondary-aged pupils are thought to have already had the virus.

The agency, which replaced Public Health England last month, said natural infection provided good protection against re-infection for three to six months.

A major study in Israel today found that protection from two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine wanes at a similar point. Immunity from a single dose falters more quickly. 

UK Government data justifying today’s update shows nine in every million 16 to 18-year-olds will get myocarditis after Pfizer’s Covid jab, the same as around one per 110,000. The risk is thought to be around the same for 12 to-15-year-olds.

In both age groups, the risk of the side effect – which in all instances in the UK have been mild and treatable – rises after the second dose.

It was for this reason that advisers only recommended first doses for children initially. 

But this week the JCVI recommended older teens should be given both doses, even though the myocarditis risk after a second dose is around one in 12,000.

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