This week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which sets the UK’s vaccine policies, recommended that 16 and 17-year-olds be offered the Pfizer vaccine – leading to speculation that the jab could soon be offered to even younger age groups. Speaking at a press conference on the issue yesterday, the deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said his sense was that it is ‘more likely rather than less likely’ that the list of children eligible for the vaccine would broaden.
It’s an interesting development given that just a fortnight ago the JCVI recommended against vaccinating over-12s unless they were particularly vulnerable to the disease. So Mr S was intrigued to hear that the Nottingham Trent Professor Robert Dingwall had been asked to leave his role advising the government on the JCVI Covid-19 sub-committee.
Dingwall has been outspoken on the topic of child vaccination in the past. In June, he stated: ‘Given the low risk of Covid for most teenagers, it is not immoral to think that they may be better protected by natural immunity generated through infection than by asking them to take the possible risk of a vaccine.’
When approached by Mr S, the professor confirmed that he – along with several JCVI Covid-19 sub-committee members – have indeed been let go. Dingwall also told Mr S that: ‘Although social media and other sources have particularly identified me with scepticism about the idea of vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds, in the present state of knowledge, this view was not by any means an outlier in discussions within the committee'.
A PHE spokesperson told Mr S that: ‘The JCVI is a group of independent experts who discuss the latest available evidence to reach decisions on how to best use Covid-19 vaccines to protect the public. The main JCVI committee has provided all advice and recommendations to Ministers on Covid-19 vaccines. The committee is united in its efforts to reach a consensus in order to provide robust advice to Ministers on how best to continue preventing hospitalisation and deaths from Covid-19.’
But with Dingwall’s departure, the wind now appears to be blowing in only one direction when it comes to vaccinating children.