Covid vaccine: Right thing to give jab to children in Wales, Plaid says

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Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JVCI, says there "isn't a right or wrong answer"

Vaccinating children aged 12 to 15 against Covid is the "right thing to do", Plaid Cymru has said.

The UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not recommended a rollout as benefits on health grounds alone were "marginal".

The Welsh government said a decision would now be made based on the chief medical officer's guidance.

Plaid health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said: "It's not an easy decision but I think it is the right thing to do."

"You look at the impact the pandemic has had on the education of young people, the well-being of young people, plus also the impact that the widespread circulation of the virus among pupils has had on wider society, I think that we are moving toward a decision to, hopefully, where it will become universal over the age of 12," he said.

On Friday, the JCVI said "the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination... at this time" among children without other conditions.

Instead it asked the four chief medical officers in the UK to consider the wider implications of extending vaccinations to younger pupils.

The decision from Welsh chief medical officer Frank Atherton is expected within days.

'School is sort of a Covid factory'

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Gareth, pictured with son Josiah, says he is disappointed by the JCVI's decision

Josiah has underlying health conditions and has only attended three weeks of school during the pandemic for fear he could catch Covid.

The 15-year-old, who has just had his second vaccination, said "they should have vaccinated everyone".

"People my age need it the most because not everyone understands how Covid works and school is sort of a Covid factory," he said.

His father Gareth, a hospital consultant, said he feared if Josiah caught Covid he could suffer breathing problems, muscle weakness and would need a ventilator.

He was he was disappointed by the JCVI decision.

"To not vaccinate the children who are not only most likely to catch the disease but are also most likely to spread - it just seems completely counter-intuitive really."

"I think we can assume that the rates are going to go up and schools are going to be shut and [children] are going to be missing their education," Mr Payne said.

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"My parents won't let me get the Covid vaccine"

Anthony Harnden, the JCVI's deputy chairman, said there was not a "right or wrong" decision.

"We have done our job. We have looked at the data, we have resisted a lot of pressure in terms of people making pronouncements - but we have actually coldly looked at the data," he told BBC Breakfast.

Should the jab rollout be extended, he said "parents need to understand what the risks are, what the benefits are and make up their own mind about whether they offer consent or not... vaccinating 12-15 year-olds is not a black and white decision".

But Deepti Gursdasani, a clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, said global evidence backed a rollout for children.

"The MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] said this vaccine was safe on 4 June, then the JCVI on three different occasions denied to roll it out to 12 to 15-year-olds while rolling it out late to 16 to 17-year-olds", she told BBC Radio Wales.

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Mair Hopkin says a decision should consider how to give children a more normal life again

Mair Hopkin, joint chair of the Royal College of GPs in Wales, said she could understand how the JCVI made their decision as it was a "very delicate balance".

But she said children's schooling had been affected for a third year and the JCVI "didn't consider whether vaccination would help more children to remain in education".

"I'd ask the Welsh government to consider to do anything they can to help children to have a more normal life than they've had over the last two years," she said.

Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan said on Friday: "Alongside the other nations of the UK, I have asked my chief medical officer to provide guidance at the earliest opportunity on the clinical and wider health benefits of vaccinating this age group.

"Our intention, as it has been from the start of the pandemic, is to follow the clinical and scientific evidence."

Russell George, health spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives, said ministers needed to take "balanced evidence" from the JCVI, chief medical officer and other health professionals.

Only then could children and parents decide on what grounds they were making decisions, he said.