CHILDREN who are at increased risk of Covid-19 are to be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on the NHS “as soon as possible”, as are those living with people with weakened immune systems, the Health Secretary has announced.

Sajid Javid said he had accepted the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which has ruled out mass vaccination of healthy children for now.

The move means thousands of children in the UK aged 12 to 15 with the following conditions can access the vaccine - severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression, multiple or severe learning disabilities.

Other conditions, including type 1 diabetes, are not currently included in the list.

Under existing guidance, young people aged 16 to 17 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious Covid should have already been offered a jab.

The JCVI has also said those aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person, such as a parent or grandparent, should be offered a Covid vaccine.

This is to protect loved ones at home who are at higher risk of serious coronavirus and who may not get the full immune protection from their own Covid vaccines.

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Mr Javid said: “Today’s advice does not recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at this point in time.

“But the JCVI will continue to review new data, and consider whether to recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at a future date.

“Covid-19 vaccines have saved almost 37,000 lives and prevented around 11.7 million infections in England alone.

“They are building a wall of defence and are the best way to protect people from serious illness. I encourage everybody who is eligible to get their jabs as soon as they can.”

The JCVI said it was not currently advising children outside these groups receive a vaccine because the benefits do not outweigh the potential risks.

Fewer than 30 children have died of Covid-19 in the UK as of March, and Covid rarely causes severe disease in children without underlying health conditions.

Real-world data on the safety of Covid-19 jabs in children is currently limited, but there have been rare reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) following the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in millions of younger adults.