Experts said the jabs could protect youngsters from future waves of coronavirus.
16 February 2022
Almost six million children in the UK aged five to 11 are to be offered a Covid-19 vaccination after officials said the jabs could protect them against future waves of the virus.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said children should be offered a low-dose Covid jab on a “non-urgent” basis, with the rollout in England expected to start in April.
Youngsters will be offered two 10 microgram doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses.
The paediatric dose is a third of the strength of an adult dose after research 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 JCVI guidance and offer coronavirus vaccinations to younger children, with England and Northern Ireland now following suit.
The JCVI said that, while the virus does not pose a threat to most children, a very small number who are infected will develop serious disease.
The move will also provide some short-term protection against mild infection across the age group, it said.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I have accepted the advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to make a non-urgent offer of Covid-19 vaccines to all children aged five to 11 in England.
“The NHS is already offering vaccines to at-risk children and those who live with immunosuppressed people in this age group.
“The JCVI advice follows a thorough review by our independent medicines regulator, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), which approved Pfizer’s paediatric vaccine as safe and effective for children aged five to 11.
“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 JCVI said the recommendation “should not displace the delivery of other non-Covid-19 childhood vaccinations”, some of which 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.”
The MHRA approved the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for use in children aged five to 11 last year and it has been given to millions of children and teenagers worldwide.
There are an estimated 5.8 million five to 11-year-olds in the UK.