Have your say: Should children get vaccinated against COVID?

·3-min read

Vaccine experts are poised to advise the government not to give coronavirus jabs to all children aged 12 to 17, it has been reported.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to tell ministers not to offer COVID-19 jabs to every child in that age group, according to the BBC.

The JCVI is due to make a statement in the coming days, as the debate around vaccinating children continues to rage.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has set a target of offering all adults a first vaccine dose and two-thirds of adults a second jab by 19 July.

But no decision has yet been made on a rollout for children, even though UK regulation the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds earlier this month.

On Wednesday, international trade secretary Liz Truss suggested the JCVI will not advise the government to press ahead with a coronavirus vaccination campaign for under-18s.

But on Friday, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, appeared to indicate that the impact on education could be a reason to vaccinate younger people, as he called for mass testing in schools to be suspended.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “If children are not severely affected, if they’re not major drivers of transmission, the testing itself is picking up lots of cases – causing classes to be sent home and so on – we’ve got to get to a point where we’re not impacting on education.

“And I think that impact on education could be a reason for vaccination.

“If children aren’t very much affected, then the testing is obviously not protecting them as they’re not very affected.”

In an open letter to the education secretary Gavin Williamson, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Thursday, 14 experts called for COVID-19 testing in schools to be scrapped.

About 200 schools and colleges across England are participating in a trial, with one group following the national guidance of quarantining contacts of positive cases, and the other allowing daily testing of contacts for a week instead of isolation.

Those who put their names to the letter included Professor Stephen Reicher and Professor Susan Michie, members of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) as well as the Independent Sage group.

Blake Ferguson, 12, receives his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from a register nurse at the Northwell Health Vaccine Center Bedford Hills Community Site in Bedford Hills, NY, May 16, 2021. The United States expanded vaccine eligibility to ages 12-15 as the CDC authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 on May 10. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)
Children have been getting COVID-19 vaccines in the US since last month. (PA)

The letter states: “We ask the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to suspend these trials immediately.

“It is deeply concerning that the daily contact testing trials are being presented as a solution for educational disruption.”

Last month, Prof Pollard said giving jabs to young and healthy people in rich countries while poor nations were struggling with their rollouts was "morally wrong". He repeated that view on Tuesday, saying children in the UK should only be vaccinated after jabs have gone to poorer countries.

A number of EU countries have started rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to children, while more than four million first doses have been administered to 12 to 15-year-olds in the US.

Earlier this month, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government is working out a potential plan for children and vaccines.

Read more: Children over 12 'should get COVID vaccine quickly'

Watch: Hancock says government working on plan for children and vaccines

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