Children as young as FIVE to get covid vaccines as Javid announces major rule change

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the government’s vaccination advisory body, has advised that the vaccine rollout be expanded to youngsters in order to fight the virus. 

Children aged five to 11 will be offered two 10 microgram doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses.

This dose is a third of the strength of an adult dose. This follows research which showed that the immune response from a lower dose in those aged five to 11 is just as good as a full dose for 16 to 25-year-olds.

Scotland and Wales have already announced their intention to follow the guidance and offer coronavirus vaccinations to younger children. England and Northern Ireland will now be following suit.

Mr Javid said: “Children without underlying health conditions are at low risk of serious illness from Covid-19 and the priority remains for the NHS to offer vaccines and boosters to adults and vulnerable young people, as well as to catch up with other childhood immunisation programmes.

“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.”

The Health Secretary also confirmed that the vaccine was already being offered to at-risk children and those who live with immunosuppressed people in this age group.

The JCVI have said that, while the virus does not pose a threat to most children, a very small number who are infected will develop serious disease.

They added that the recommendation “should not displace the delivery of other non-Covid-19 childhood vaccinations”, some of which, such as MMR and HPV, have been disrupted as a result of the pandemic.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chairman of Covid-19 immunisation on the JCVI, said: “The committee has carefully considered the potential direct health impacts of vaccination and potential indirect educational impacts.

“The main purpose of offering vaccination to five to 11-year-olds is to increase their protection against severe illness in advance of a potential future wave of Covid-19.”

Northern Ireland’s health minister Robin Swann added: “As has always been the case our vaccination programme will continue to be guided by the expert advice.

“This announcement by the JCVI underlines the important role that the COVID-19 vaccines plays in protecting people of all ages and has only been taken after rigorous assessment of both safety and effectiveness.”

Leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon confirmed earlier today that the Scottish government will be accepting the advice of the JCVI, and added that “work is now underway on the logistics of delivery.

“Parents/carers will receive further info asap.”

The next age group above, 12 to 15-year-olds, started getting their first vaccines in England at the end of September. They have been able to get their second jab from just before Christmas, provided their first was at least 12 weeks before.

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