TUESDAY, Sept. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- While in the United States preteens and teens aged 12 to 15 years have been eligible for COVID-19 vaccines since the spring, the vaccines are only now becoming available for that age group in the United Kingdom.
According to the Associated Press, on Monday the United Kingdom gave its approval for use of the vaccines in children 12 years and older as part of a "tool kit" to avoid lockdowns this fall and winter.
The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland recommended on Monday that children aged 12 to 15 years get a single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinations in this age group should commence next week, according to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Even though other countries -- including the United States, Canada, France, and Italy -- approved COVID-19 vaccines for older children months ago, the United Kingdom has hesitated, preferring instead to push for vaccination in people 16 years and older. Currently, almost 90 percent of Britons in that age group have had at least one dose of vaccine, the AP reported.
Earlier in September, the U.K. Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization did approve the use of the vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds with underlying health conditions. But it held off on their use in healthy children in this age group, reasoning that severe illness is very rare in these individuals and overall health benefits would be marginal, the AP said. However, vaccination could be warranted since children can spread infection to other more vulnerable people, the committee said.
Children aged 12 to 15 years will get a first dose of vaccine through their schools, and it has not yet been decided whether they will receive a second dose.