Some five to 11-year-olds are going to be offered a coronavirus vaccine in the UK for the first time.
But the Government’s vaccine advisers have stopped short of offering jabs to all children in this age group – for now.
Only those who are deemed clinically at-risk, or who live in a household with someone who is immunosuppressed, will be given a new formulation of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine.
This lower dose jab has today been approved by the UK’s regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), for five to 11-year-olds.
The body said it made the approval following a ‘robust review of safety data that showed a positive benefit-risk profile for this jab to be used in the age group.’
In light of the regulator’s approval, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised at-risk children should be offered a primary course of vaccination.
This involves two 10-microgram doses – a third of the adult dose – with eight weeks between the first and second doses.
Further advice regarding Covid vaccination for other five to 11-year-olds will be issued in due course after consideration of additional data, and on the Omicron variant more broadly, the JCVI said.
A decision on whether to offer Covid jabs to younger age groups has been long awaited in the UK and comes months after the US began vaccinated all children aged five and over.
Although children are far less likely to get severe disease from Covid compared to adults, many have claimed vaccines are necessary to minimise disruption in schools and protect more vulnerable groups.
Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: ‘Parents and carers can be reassured that no new vaccine for children would have been approved unless the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met.
‘We have concluded that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective for five to 11-year olds, with no new safety concerns identified.
‘We have carefully considered all the available data and reached the decision that there is robust evidence to support a positive benefit-risk for children in this age group.
‘Our detailed review of all side-effect reports to date has found that the overwhelming majority relate to mild symptoms, such as a sore arm or a flu-like illness.
‘We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines and this includes children aged 5 to 11 years old.’
Separately, in response to the Omicron threat, the JCVI has advised that booster vaccinations should be offered to those aged 16 to 17 years, children aged 12 to 15 who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed, and children aged 12 to 15 years who are severely immunocompromised and who have had a third primary dose.
The booster for these groups should be 30 micrograms of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, given no sooner than three months after completion of the primary course.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chairman of the Covid-19 committee for the JCVI, said: ‘The majority of children aged five to 11 are at very low risk of serious illness due to Covid-19.
‘However, some five to 11 year olds have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk, and we advise these children to be vaccinated in the first instance.
‘For children and young people who have completed a primary course of vaccination, a booster dose will provide added protection against the Omicron variant.’
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