Covid Omicron variant: Will five to 11 year olds be offered a coronavirus vaccine next?
Children ages five to 11 could be the next age group to be offered a coronavirus injection, and ministers are now receiving advice on the impact of vaccinating primary school-age children.
With immunity to Covid-19 starting to wane in the UK, given that it has been several months since many people received their second dose of a vaccine, the government wants to protect as many people as possible.
The emergence of a troubling new variant, known as Omicron, pushed the government to extend eligibility for the booster jab scheme to all adults over the age of 18 in a bid to raise immunity levels in the UK.
And children ages 12 to 15 were told they could get their second dose, after only the first was allowed previously, while those with severely weakened immune systems were told they would be offered the next dose soon. fourth dose.
The Omicron variant, of which there are now at least 20 cases in the UK after it was first discovered in South Africa, is causing great global concern among scientists who are concerned that vaccines may be less effective against it. .
Why vaccinate young children?
Young children are much less vulnerable to the coronavirus than older age groups, but ministers and experts are considering whether vaccinating children ages five to 11 would protect adults.
George Freeman, minister of science, research and innovation, said "We are looking at the science on that and the balance of deployment."
"Patrick Vallance, our chief scientist, and Chris Whitty (England's chief medical officer) are advising on that and it is their advice that guides us.
"The urgent priority now is to make sure that we implement the jab program among the population and, with the arrival of Christmas, we want to make sure that as many people as possible receive double jabs."
"I think that, in due course, we would like to make sure that everyone who is vulnerable has the right level of protection.
"The data at this time suggests that young children are much less vulnerable, but as the data changes, we are guided by science and we are ready, which is in part why we have acquired vaccines, to make sure that we can deliver what our citizens and patients need. "
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Are other countries vaccinating their youth?
Several countries around the world have started vaccinating children ages five to 11, including Israel, which has been considered a world leader in launching vaccines.
The EU has already approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for use in that age group, however the rollout has yet to begin, with a scheduled start date of December 13.
Other countries, including the United States, Canada, China, and Saudi Arabia, have also approved jabs for children ages five to 11.
If the age group were approved for vaccination in the UK, it is likely that children would only be able to receive a vaccine with parental consent.
What do scientists think?
Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), said that the main benefit of immunizing children against Covid-19 is "the indirect protection of adults."
He told BBC Breakfast: “It is still quite uncertain to what extent we can do that and protect adults from being infected by children with current vaccines.
“So that's the balance: we clearly want to protect children as much as possible and now we have good evidence that this vaccine, even at a low dose, produces a really good protective immune response in children and produces far fewer side effects. due to the lower dose.
"The question really is whether that should be our focus right now or should we really focus on adults who are the ones who get seriously ill much more often."