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UPDATE: 12–15-year-olds with “severe neuro-disabilities“ to be offered COVID-19 vaccine

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have advised that some children aged 12 and over who are at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19 should be offered the vaccine.

Those identified by the JCVI as being eligible for the vaccine include children aged 12 and over with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities.

What are “severe neuro-disabilities“?

The Neurological Alliance contacted Department for Health and Social Care and Public Health England to establish what constitutes “severe neuro-disabilities” Further details around the definition have now been set out on page 17 of chapter 14a of the Green Book: Immunisation against infectious disease.

The Green Book advises offering individuals over 12 who have “severe neuro-disability and/or neuromuscular conditions that compromise respiratory
function” the vaccine.

This includes conditions (such as cerebral palsy, autism and muscular dystrophy) that may affect swallowing and protection of the upper airways, leading to aspiration, and reduce the ability to cough and resulting overall in increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

Children and young adults with learning disability should also be offered the vaccine. This includes:

  • individuals with Down’s syndrome
  • those who are on the learning disability register
  • those with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) or severe learning disabilities

And those facing immunosuppression due to disease or treatment. Further information on what constitutes immunosuppression can be found in the Green Book on page 17.

It has also been advised that those aged 12 and over who live with someone (adult or child) who is immunosuppressed should similarly be offered the vaccine. This is for the purpose of reducing the potential risk of passing COVID-19 onto someone in their household who is at increased risk of serious illness due to immunosuppression.

Which vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine has approval for use from 12 years old and currently has the most extensive safety data in those aged 12-15 years. This vaccine is therefore the preferred vaccine in this age group.

What next for vaccinating children?

At present the JCVI does not advise routine vaccination of all children and young people aged 12 and over. This will be kept under review as more data around safety and effectiveness becomes available. The Neurological Alliance will keep you updated on this issue going forward.

Georgina Carr, Chief Executive of The Neurological Alliance, said:

“The latest advice from the JCVI around vaccinating children further demonstrates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on those with neurological conditions and neuro-disabilities.

We welcome the decision to offer a vaccine to those aged 12 and over identified as being as higher risk from COVID and those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed.

Moving forward we will continue to work with member organisations, people with neurological conditions and government to best protect and inform those that we support.”

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