The Government will announce its plans for the vaccination of children against Covid later today and is expected to say that only clinically vulnerable children and those living with vulnerable adults will be included in the national roll-out – for now. It hasn’t taken long for reports to emerge suggesting that all children could be offered a vaccine by the end of the year. The argument is that it will be difficult to reach herd immunity if children remain unvaccinated. The Telegraph has the story.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to announce that only vulnerable youngsters between the ages of 12 and 15, and 17 year-olds within three months of their 18th birthday, will be offered a jab amid concerns there is too little data on safety and efficacy in young people.
But the JCVI is expected to leave the door open for more children to be vaccinated once trials conclude later this year, the Telegraph understands.
In June, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the Pfizer jab for 12 to 15 year-olds in Britain following early trial results in teenagers, but there is still no data for younger children.
Pfizer is expected to release results on trials for five to 11 year-olds in September and two to five year-olds by November, with the company expecting regulator approval within a month of releasing positive data. AstraZeneca is also conducting trials in children aged six to 17, with the British team likely to release results before the end of the year.
On Sunday, experts warned that it may be difficult to reach herd immunity in Britain if children are not vaccinated. Nearly one in five people in the U.K. are under 16 and, despite everyone being offered a vaccine, around 12% of adults have not had a first jab.
Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College, a member of SAGE, told the BBC: “In the absence of vaccinating it’s inevitable that we’re going to have very high numbers of cases in teenagers, and we will not be able to reach herd immunity without significant immunity in people under 18.”
The JCVI is expected to keep the situation under review and will be watching the results from trials closely.
Scientists are particularly concerned that vaccination may damage the developing immune system of younger children. Different age groups may require different doses, further complicating the roll-out, and companies must show it will not make children who get Covid more ill – which has happened with other vaccines in the past.
Experts are also worried that the benefits to children may not outweigh the risks, making vaccination ethically dubious and leaving the Government vulnerable to legal challenges.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Government will continue to be guided by the advice of the JCVI, and no decisions have been made by ministers on whether people aged 12 to 17 should be routinely offered Covid vaccines.”
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