07 Mar Covid vaccinations to be offered to 5 to 11-year-olds in England
Covid vaccinations to be offered to 5 to 11-year-olds in England
Covid-19 jabs will be offered to children aged 5-11 in England, after experts assessed the evidence for immunising young children.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) concluded that a ‘non-urgent’ offer of vaccination to children in this age group could help to prevent a small number of cases of serious illness and hospitalisation. The jab for this age group would contain a low dose of the Covid-vaccine, around a third of the adult dose.
Children who are already at a greater risk from Covid-19, such as those with existing medical conditions, are already eligible to get the jab.
Research has found that children are at a far lower risk of becoming seriously ill with a coronavirus infection, which means smaller health benefits for rolling out a full vaccination programme. There’s also the fact that many children will now have some protection from having caught the virus in the past.
However, vaccinating more children could help to protect the very small number of children who do become seriously ill with Covid-19. Scientists predict that around 98 hospitalisations could be prevented in the case that the next wave of the virus turns out to be more severe – like previous variants. If the Omicron variant or another similarly mild variant causes the next wave, around 17 hospitalisations could be prevented.
Whether or not to vaccinate will be up to parents, and jabs for 5 to 11-year-olds will start in April 2022.
According to the BBC, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said:
“The NHS will prepare to extend this non-urgent offer to all children during April so parents can, if they want, take up the offer to increase protection against potential future waves of Covid-19 as we learn to live with this virus.”
Professor Wei Shen Lim, from the JCVI, advised parents to consider getting their children’s jabs done during the school holidays. This is to minimise disruption to learning caused by and cold or flu-like symptoms that occur as common side effects of the vaccine.
The JCVI also warned that many other children’s vaccination programmes such as HPV and MMR had fallen behind due to the global health crisis. Prof Lim said that it was important that Covid jabs for 5 to 11-year-olds didn’t prevent these immunisations from getting back on track.
What about other parts of the UK?
After hearing the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s official advice on vaccinations for children, the Welsh and Scottish governments have also announced that they plan to roll out jabs for the 5-11 age group. In Scotland, parents and carers of children in the affected age group will receive more information once plans had been finalised. Most recently, Northern Ireland also made a similar announcement.
The children’s vaccine has already been widely used in other parts of the world. In particular, the US, which has administered jabs to around eight million children in this age group.