The question of whether children will be given the coronavirus vaccine has been raised as the vaccine roll out continues in the UK.
When the vaccines were first distributed it was said that anyone under 18 with no underlying health conditions would not be given the vaccine. This was for a variety of reasons – including a lack of testing and necessity.
Necessity because it is widely acknowledged that Covid-19 symptoms in children are generally less severe than in adults. However, children are known vectors for transmission onto more vulnerable people. Which is why with kids now back at school after lockdown, extra precautions including lateral flow tests and masks in school have been implemented to try and stop the spread of the virus.
Now, a new report by The Telegraph has suggested that children could be offered the coronavirus vaccine after all and young people could receive their first vaccine before the end of the year.
Will children be given the coronavirus vaccine?
Oxford University is running a child vaccine study involving a total of 300 volunteers aged between six and 17 years old took part. The researchers aim to assess the safety of Covid-19 vaccine on children. The meningitis vaccine is being used as the control since it’s proven safe for children but may have similar side effects as the Covid-19 jab – like soreness at the sight of injection, a cough or fever.
Safety data from the study is being used to assess whether the vaccine rollout will be extended to children. These results are expected to come through in June or July. Depending on the results of the study, ministers will make judgements about whether children will be given the coronavirus vaccine.
However, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told The Telegraph that “no decisions have been made on whether children should be offered the vaccinations.”
Following this, Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Professor of Paediatrics at Bristol Medical School appeared said that more studies would be required before decisions could be made about giving the vaccine to children.
“As far as I know there has been no decision made to immunise children starting in August, or indeed any decision been taken to immunise children at all at this point,” he said on Good Morning Britain.
He did confirm that it was a possibility for the future though as it’s “certainly something that we might need to do”.
When will children get the coronavirus vaccine?
Two sources involved with the preparations reportedly told The Telegraph that this date was the soonest point that those under 18 living in the UK would be reached in the vaccine queue and could expect to be offered the vaccine.
This means that most of the 11 million children eligible for the vaccine could be partially inoculated by the start of autumn term 2021, if the current rate of vaccination continues at three million first doses per week.
Why are children getting the Covid vaccine now?
There is understandable confusion over why, after months of children being excluded from the vaccination programme, they are potentially now being considered.
The change of approach is part of provisional government plans to push for maximum immunity from the virus, sources told The Telegraph, rather than work to eradicate the virus completely. Boris Johnson said that he was “not sure eradication makes sense in a globalised economy” and Professor Chris Whitty echoed the Prime Minister’s comment, as he said, “I regret to say the chances of eradicating this disease are close to zero.”
Critics of this plan, however, have noted that the virus poses a relatively insubstantial threat to children and there is still emerging evidence over how safe the vaccines are for children.
Which children will be eligible for the vaccine?
If children are eligible for vaccination this year, it’s likely only to be offered to teenagers – rather than young children.
Professor Finn also told Good Morning Britain, “If it does turn out to be necessary to immunise children, I think it is more likely that we would prioritise teenagers over younger children, simply because the evidence we have at the moment is that transmission of the virus is more likely to occur from and between teenagers who are a little bit more like adults.”
This means that younger children and babies will likely still not be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Is the vaccine compulsory for children?
No, there aren’t any vaccines in the UK that are compulsory for children.
Vaccinations are also only administered to people under 18 years of age with parental consent.