The government are expected to approve use of the Moderna Covid vaccine for children aged 12 and over after it was approved by the UK medical watchdog.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to make a recommendation on extending the vaccination programme, officials have said.

It is the second Covid-19 jab authorised for those aged between 12 and 17, after the Pfizer vaccine.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that it is up to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to advise the Government on whether children in this age group should be given the Moderna jab.

Boris Johnson

What are the latest changes?

Although no official change has been confirmed 

The MHRA said that the jab – also known as the Spikevax vaccine – is “safe and effective in this age group”.

The government have followed the adviced of the MHRA and JCVI. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “As has been the case with all other approvals, we will now be guided by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and have asked for its formal recommendation on whether to administer this vaccine to people aged 12 to 17.

Which children can currently get the vaccine?

Across the nation 223,755 under-18s have received a first dose and almost 80,000 have had a second dose, according to NHS data to July 25.

At present, some children aged 12 to 15 are only offered the Pfizer Covid-19 jab if they are considered to be clinically vulnerable.

This week it was announced that all 16 and 17-year-olds in England will be offered the chance to book in for their first jab before August 23.

Are jabs for children safe?

In short, Yes.

There has been much speculation as to whether the vaccination programme will be extended to include all children aged 12 and over.

Other countries have successfully been vaccinating children for some time, but the UK has taken a more cautious approach to routinely offering the jab to younger children.

Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: “I am pleased to confirm that that the Covid-19 vaccine made by Moderna has now been authorised in 12 to 17-year-olds. The vaccine is safe and effective in this age group.

“We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include the 12 to 17-year age group.”

Where might children get vaccines?

Probably at the vaccine clinics which are up and running such as GP surgeries and pharmacies.

Pop-up vaccine clinics have been appearing at popular spots for young people – including Thorpe Park and Latitude Festival – so in theory this would continue.

Will children need parental consent?

If under 16 then yes. 

In response to a question about whether parental consent will be needed for the vaccines, Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI, said: “In the UK, a person who is 16 years and above is deemed able to consent for themselves, and if they are competent and able to consent for themselves then that consent holds.”

What has been said previously about children getting vaccinated?

There has been debate about offering vaccines to children, with some experts saying children should be able to get the jab to prevent further disruption to schooling. According to Government figures a record 1.13 million children in England were out of school for Covid-19 related reasons towards the end of term.

It could also in theory reduce transmission which should dampen levels of infection in the population.

Others have suggested that vaccinating children would, in large, not be for their own benefit – because it is rare for children to be seriously ill from Covid-19. This could create a moral grey area, as children would be given a vaccine, which can have side effects, for the benefit of others.

Others have said that it would be morally ambiguous to give the vaccine to children when there are serious gaps in vaccine equity around the globe. Some high-profile people – such as Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, who is part of the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – have spoken out against vaccinating children ahead of some of the most vulnerable people in other parts of the world.

What is the official line?

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We welcome the news that Moderna’s vaccine has been approved as safe and effective for people aged 12 and over.

“As has been the case with all other approvals, we will now be guided by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and have asked for its formal recommendation on whether to administer this vaccine to people aged 12 to 17.

“All young people aged 16 to 17, clinically vulnerable children aged 12 to 15 and people who live with adults who are immunosuppressed will be offered a first dose of a Pfizer jab by Monday 23 August.”

I don’t know any 12 to 17-year-olds, what does this mean for me?

Scientists have said that opening the vaccine programme to younger groups could help stem the tide of infections – which are largely being driven by younger groups.

The more people who are vaccinated, the less infection is around, so it is less likely you will become infected yourself or have plans disrupted due to illness or isolation.

But will 12 and 17-year-olds take up the jab offer?

Even though the vaccine programme has been open to all those 18 and over for some time now there are still around 2.8 million 18-29-year olds who are completely unvaccinated.

Officials have started incentive schemes to encourage people to take up the jab offer.

It remains to be seen what proportion of younger teenagers take up the offer and whether pearents will want them to.