Children may get Covid jabs 'if schools face threat of closing again'

Children may only get Covid jabs if the virus continues to spread and schools face the threat of closing again, Government vaccine adviser says

  • Professor Adam Finn revealed today the decision hinged on school disruption
  • Pfizer said yesterday its vaccine was 100 per cent effective in children
  • AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen are also testing their jabs among children 

Professor Adam Finn, from Bristol University, said the decision hinged on whether children would be benefitted by the vaccine

British children may only be asked to get Covid vaccines if the spread of the virus threatens to shut schools once again, a Government vaccine adviser said today. 

Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the advisory committee that decided the jab priority list, claimed the decision hinged on whether it would ‘keep things functioning normally across society’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘One would not really be comfortable with immunising children entirely for the benefit of others and not for the children.

‘I think if it does look as though it’s necessary, that will be driven by the observation that the virus is still circulating and there’s jeopardy for children in terms of disruption to their education.’

His comments come after Pfizer claimed their vaccine was 100 per cent effective in children and triggered a ‘robust’ antibody response. 

None of the 12 to 15 year olds given the jab as part of a trial caught coronavirus nor suffered any serious side-effects, according to trial results. 

Jabs made by AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen are also being tested in children, with results expected later this year.

Scientists say it’s morally complicated to jab children because they have almost zero risk of dying or falling seriously ill from the disease, and would only be vaccinated to protect older people. It is still unknown, however, how long Covid may affect them.  

Pfizer revealed yesterday that its jab was 100 per cent effective in clinical trials on more than 2,000 children aged 12 to 15. It recorded 18 cases in the placebo group, and none among those who had been vaccinated against the virus

Vaccinating children could be controversial because it is likely to be focused on protecting older people rather than the children themselves. Other vaccines given to children, such as for measles and meningitis, protect against diseases that are very dangerous and potentially deadly to children, but the same is not true of Covid-19 (stock image)

Pfizer’s Covid vaccine is 100% effective in children aged 12 to 15, trial results suggest 

The Pfizer vaccine is 100 per cent effective in children aged 12 to 15, a study suggests.

None of those given the jab as part of a trial caught coronavirus nor suffered any serious side-effects.

The company now hopes the vaccine can be given to pupils in this age group before the start of the next school year.

It will send data to the UK regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – within a couple of months.

Vaccinating children will move the UK closer to ‘herd immunity’ and help ease teachers’ fears about classroom transmission, experts say.

Researchers examined the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in a trial of 2,260 teenagers in the US.

Half were given the jab and the other half were given a placebo.

There were no Covid cases seen in the group who received the vaccine and 18 infections among those who did not.

Albert Bourla, chief executive of Pfizer, said: ‘We share the urgency to expand the authorisation of our vaccine to use in younger populations and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15.

‘We plan to submit these data to the US Food and Drug Administration… and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year.’

JCVI member Professor Finn, who is also a child vaccine expert based at Bristol University, revealed the decision on whether to vaccinate children was yet to be taken.

He said: ‘Of course, there are children who do get sick when they experience Covid, but very small numbers.

‘There are children that get sick as well, but I think the main reason for doing it would be to try to keep things functioning normally across society, including schools.’

He said ministers may need to wait to see how the jab roll-out goes in adults before deciding if it is necessary to immunise children ‘in order to keep the virus under control’.

Professor Finn added: ‘The important aspect of that for children is that we desperately want to keep schools open into the next academic year and avoid any further disruption to education.

‘I think this would benefit children if it turns out to be necessary, but clearly, we don’t want to do this unless it is necessary, because it would be an additional difficulty, costs and so on.’

He added there had been ‘no problems’ in the AstraZeneca vaccine trials on children, and they were also awaiting results from trials of the Janssen jab. 

Leaked Government plans last month suggested ministers wanted to start getting jabs to millions of under-18s by August to try to achieve herd immunity —when the virus can’t spread because so many people are protected. 

But if the threshold of protection needed is high children may need vaccinating too otherwise the virus will continue spreading among them.

Scientists say it is likely at least two thirds of the population will need to be jabbed to get anywhere close to herd immunity. But because no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, experts say the threshold may need to be closer to 90 per cent. 

Although most children won’t get sick if they are infected, the long-term effects of the virus aren’t well understood.

It means that, when prevalence is high, there is a higher risk that some will get seriously ill or that the virus will make its way into adults for whom the jab hasn’t worked. 

Other vaccines given to children, such as for measles and meningitis, protect against diseases that are very dangerous and potentially deadly to children, but the same is not true of Covid.

Children are at least risk of dying if they catch Covid — with Public Health England data showing their risk is less than one in a million.

The rate among over-80s, who are most at risk, is 1,513 per 100,000 — or 1.5 per cent of all those who catch the virus.

Experts who back the child vaccination policy argue that it is important to minimise the risk of infection, despite some academics arguing children do not contribute to the spread of Covid.

Israel is the first country in the world to have rolled out vaccines to under-18s, with 16 and 17-year-olds having jabs after the health ministry decided it was safe. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said last month ‘no decisions’ had been made on whether children should be offered vaccinations.

One source involved in the plan told The Telegraph vaccines for children ‘may begin by late summer,’ stating specifically that August was the date.

Another source said that this would be the ‘earliest’ the roll-out for under-18s would begin.

Only children who are at a high risk of Covid are currently able to have a vaccine.

The proposal to vaccinate children underlines the extent to which the government feels it must drive down cases ahead of next winter. 

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