MHRA clears Moderna COVID vaccine for 12 to 17 year olds

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The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has become the second jab to be authorised for use in England, Scotland and Wales in children aged 12 to 17 after getting the nod from the Medicines and healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

It joins the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in being an option for that age group, having been approved in Northern Ireland – which remains under the EU regulatory framework – a month ago.

Earlier this month, the UK government gave the go-ahead to use the Pfizer/BioNTech shot in 16 and 17 year olds and Moderna now becomes another option for that ongoing expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

All the 1.4 million children in that age group should be offered a vaccine by the end of next week, according to the current schedule.

There's no word yet from the government or its advisory body – the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – on whether the vaccination programme may be extended further to include younger children in line with the MHRA authorisations.

Having two vaccines available would make it easier to ensure adequate supplies if a decision to extend to younger teenagers is taken.

A number of other countries have already decided to offer COVID-19 vaccines to the under-18s including Canada which was one of the first countries to approved the Pfizer/BioNTech shot  for teenagers, as well as the US, Germany, France, and Israel.

There has been a lot of debate about vaccinating younger people against COVID-19, particularly as symptoms tend to be mild in children and all the vaccines have been associated with side effects.

Proponents of the strategy say however that it can prevent young people acting as a reservoir of infections that can be passed on to others, and help to avoid a fresh wave of cases once they return to school in the autumn.

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said that no new side effects have been identified with the Moderna vaccine and the safety data in children is comparable with that seen in young adults.

"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," she added.

The MHRA approval came through the EC Decision Reliance Route, which references the earlier EMA decision to approve the vaccine.

No evidence that jabs affect pregnancy, fertility

The MHRA has also said that rigorous safety monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy shows that the vaccines are safe and there is no increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.

There is also no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect the unborn baby, said the regulator.

The update came shortly after the MHRA also fund no evidence to support concerns that menstrual disorders and unexpected vaginal bleeding can be caused by COVID-19 vaccines.

"There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility and the ability to have children," said the agency.