LONDON (Reuters) - The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Wednesday that children aged between 12 and 15 should delay getting a COVID-19 vaccine if they've recently had COVID to at least 12 weeks after they were infected.
The advice brings guidance for 12 to 15-year-olds into line with that for 16 and 17-year-olds, who were advised to wait 12 weeks after infection before getting a shot when officials gave a go ahead for second doses for that age group.
Currently, 12 to 15-year-olds are only advised to get an initial shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, which has been associated with rare, mild and usually short-lived side effect of heart inflammation known as myocarditis.
The UKHSA said that the increase in the gap, from previous guidance of a 4-week interval, could cut rare cases of myocarditis further.
"The COVID-19 vaccines are very safe. Based on a highly precautionary approach, we are advising a longer interval between COVID infection and vaccination for those aged under 18," Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at UKHSA, said in a statement.
"This increase is based on the latest reports from the UK and other countries, which may suggest that leaving a longer interval between infection and vaccination will further reduce the already very small risk of myocarditis in younger age groups."
Children have had some of the highest rates of infection in England since schools went back at the start of September, although prevalence has fallen from its peak since a half-term school holiday at the end of October.
UKHSA said that current advice for at-risk children between 12-17 was unchanged, owing to their higher risk from COVID which would outweigh any benefit from delaying the shots.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Giles Elgood)