Children over the age of six months and under the age of five will now be offered the Covid vaccine in the US, but will the UK follow?
The US Food and Drug Administration’s outside advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for kids under five across America, after data found both vaccines to be safe and effective.
Both jabs will be rolled out in the US shortly. The Pfizer vaccine will cover children aged six months through to four years old, whilst the Moderna vaccine will cover children aged six months through to five years old.
The US joins just a handful of countries offering vaccines to under fives, including China, Argentina, Hong Kong, Cuba, Venezuela, Bahrain and Chile.
But currently in the UK, under fives aren’t eligible for Covid vaccines, though those who are of the ages five through 11 are able to get the jab. Dr Nikki Kanani, deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, said the vaccines still “remain the best defence” against coronavirus.
So, where are we at with vaccines for under fives here?
Is the UK going to roll out vaccines for under fives?
The Department of Health and Social Care has not suggested that vaccines for under fives are on the way and the 2022 autumn booster programme will once again focus on older and more vulnerable groups.
Still, when asked about the likelihood of under fives being offered vaccines in the UK, Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, told HuffPost UK: “I suspect it is being kept under review.”
When asked if he thinks under fives need to be vaccinated he said: “Personally I doubt that. Almost all under fives have had at least one infection now and many will have had two, especially after this current wave is over.”
He continued: “Disease severity in the under fives is substantially less than in older age groups. The one severe disease that did occur in this group was Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS).
“There were also concerns about side effects of vaccine especially myocarditis, though I think if fair to say that this is not as big a risk as was originally thought,
“So I don’t think there is a great need for vaccinating under fives, but if I was not retired from clinical practice I would give the vaccine if the parents really wanted it for their child.”
Why are children being vaccinated?
Although young children are likely to have mild Covid symptoms, this isn’t always the case and children can still be impacted by long Covid. Older children are being vaccinated for this reason, as well as to minimise disruptions to education due to Covid.
The UK’s vaccine advisers have said that the jabs will help “future-proof children’s defences” against infection.
“This vaccine promises to be very safe, it promises to be very effective,” Professor Steve Turner, from The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said. “We know this because other countries have been using it in their young children as well.”
Which children are eligible to get vaccinated in the UK?
Anyone aged five to 11 is eligible to take the vaccine. Young children who suffer from underlying health conditions or have weakened immune systems were the first ones offered the jab.
“Parents, if they want, can take up the offer for their children to increase protection against Covid as we learn to live with this virus,” health and social care secretary Sajid Javid previously said.
“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.”
What are the side effects for vaccines for children?
According to the government’s official website, children may have common side effects in the first day or two, which include:
having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where they had their injection
headache, aches and chills.
Your child may experience flu-like symptoms such as shivering and shaking for a few days. But if they have a high temperature this could indicate that they have Covid-19 or another infection, so they should take a Covid test.