England to offer Covid jab to five to 11-year-olds

England to offer Covid jab to five to 11-year-olds

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Children aged between five and 11 in England will be offered a low-dose Covid vaccine, the government says.

Official scientific advice concludes the move would help protect the “very small” number of children who become seriously ill with Covid.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the rollout will be “non-urgent”, with an emphasis on parental choice.

Wales and Scotland have already said they will offer young children the vaccine.

Northern Ireland also announced on Wednesday children there will be offered the vaccine.

Children are at a much lower risk of becoming severely ill from a Covid infection, so the health benefits of vaccinating them are smaller than in other age-groups. Also, many will have some protection from already having caught the virus.

So the scientists on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises governments across the UK, have been weighing up the evidence for immunising five to 11-year-olds.

It concluded vaccination should go ahead to prevent a “very small number of children from serious illness and hospitalisation” in a future wave of Covid.

Prof Wei Shen Lim, from the JCVI, said: “The main purpose of offering vaccination to five to 11-year-olds is to increase their protection against severe illness.”

However, he warned other childhood vaccinations include the MMR and HPV campaigns have “fallen behind due to the pandemic” and it was “vital” that Covid jabs did not disrupt these immunisations.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “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.”

He emphasised that children are at low risk from Covid and that the “priority remains for the NHS to offer vaccines and boosters to adults and vulnerable young people” and to catch-up with other childhood immunisation programmes”.

Children, aged from five to 11, who have other medical conditions that put them at greater risk are already eligible for the vaccine.

The Welsh government announced on Tuesday that it would be offering jabs to children after seeing the draft JCVI ruling.

It followed reports the committee’s announcement was delayed due to a disagreement with the UK government, which says it is “reviewing the JCVI’s advice as part of wider decision-making”.

Scotland then followed the next day, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying Scottish ministers had received and considered the same JCVI advice and were “content to accept it”.

She told parents and carers of children in the five to 11 age group that more information would be given when plans had been finalised.

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