An MHK has called for children under the age of 18 to be vaccinated.

In the final sitting of Tynwald before the General Election this week MHK Lawrie Hooper (Ramsey) asked the Health Minister to make a statement about plans to vaccinate island children between the ages of 12 and 18 years old.

Mr Hooper called for clarity about the island’s position on the issue and timings for any potential rollouts.

Last month, the UK regulator approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12 to 15, potentially opening the way for a vaccination campaign in schoolchildren.

When asked about the potential for offering vaccines to this cohort, the Health Minister made reference to guidance published on Monday by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which advises UK health departments on immunisation.

The JCVI advised that: ’Children and young people aged 12 years and over with specific underlying health conditions that put them at risk of serious Covid-19, should be offered Covid-19 vaccination.’

They also stated that: ’Children and young people aged 12 years and over who are household contacts of persons (adults or children) who are immunosuppressed should be offered Covid-19 vaccination on the understanding that the main benefits from vaccination are related to the potential for indirect protection of their household contact who is immunosuppressed.’

In addition, some 17-year-olds may soon be offered the vaccine, as ’operationally, it is considered reasonable to allow a lead-in time to offer vaccination to those children who are within three months of their 18th birthday to ensure good uptake of vaccine in newly-turned 18-year-olds’.

It’s thought the UK will soon be offering vaccines to vulnerable children, older 17-year-olds and others who fall into the aforementioned groups.

Mr Ashford told Tynwald that the Isle of Man Government was putting the mechanisms in place to be able to follow suit, saying that those who fall into these groups ’will be contacted in due course’ to receive their Pfizer vaccine at the vaccination hub on Chester Street.

He also explained that the vaccine has not yet been rolled out to this age group more generally as they are awaiting formal guidance from the JCVI.

This is due to the Isle of Man’s licence to distribute the UK vaccines being dependent on the fact they follow the guidance set out in the UK - meaning the government cannot create it’s own rollout rules.

The JCVI stated that they had: ’Carefully examined the risk of Covid-19 to children and young people. The evidence strongly indicates that almost all children and young people are at very low risk from Covid-19.

’Where symptoms are seen in children and young people, they are typically mild, and little different from other mild respiratory viral infections which circulate each year.

’The incidence of severe outcomes from Covid-19 in children and young people is extremely low. In England, between February 2020 and March 2021 inclusive, fewer than 30 persons aged less than 18 years died because of Covid-19, corresponding to a mortality rate of two deaths per million.

’During the second wave of the pandemic in the UK, the hospitalisation rate in children and young people was 100 to 400 per million. Most of those hospitalised had severe underlying health conditions.’