Pfizer’s Covid vaccine IS safe for 5-11 year olds – but will only be rolled out to some kids
BRITISH kids aged five to 11 can have Pfizer's Covid vaccine, it has been confirmed today – but only if they are in certain groups.
As Omicron continues to spread and schools go back in a number of weeks, a decision on jabbing children has been long awaited.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said this afternoon they believe Pfizer's vaccines to be safe for youngsters.
But the experts stopped short of recommending jabs for all five to 11 year olds – saying only the clinically vulnerable and who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed are eligible.
The selected kids, around 330,000, will get two doses of a smaller amount of vaccine, with a gap of eight weeks between each injection.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of the JCVI's Covid-19 immunisation committee, 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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The latest data showed that children over five years old saw the same levels of antibodies as teens over 16, post vaccination.
The JCVI also recommended boosters for 16 to 17 year olds, 12 to 15 year olds who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone (of any age) who is immunosuppressed and 12 to 15 years old who are severely immunocompromised and have had a third primary dose.
The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency also echoed the approval to dish out vaccines to the over-5s.
But the JCVI decided against rolling them out to all kids over five years old for now, as the risk to non vulnerable children is still far smaller.
It is thought they could return to this in January, when more data on Omicron's severity is available.
Dr June Raine, 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 5 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."
She added side effects in younger children appear to be largely mild, with sore arms or flu-like illnesses.
To find out if your child is within these at risk groups, check their condition within the 'green book', but the NHS will also get in touch.
Earlier this month Boris Johnson revealed 12 to 15 year olds could get their second dose of the life-saving Covid jab.
The PM added: "We know how crucial it is to keep children in schools so let's all make sure our children and young people are vaccinated before they go back next term."
It comes after it was reported schools were drawing up plans to stay shut in January as Omicron fears grow.
A decision on recommending giving children aged five to 11 a dose of Covid vaccine has been mulled over for months by the JCVI.
Last week the chair of the JCVI's Covid-19 sub-committee, Professor Lim Wei Shen, hinted a recommendation would be made before Christmas.
A booster shot is the best protection against Omicron, with data suggesting it pushes efficacy back up to 75 per cent.
Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant."
The Sun is also urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.
A record 968,665 booster and third doses of vaccine were dished out in the UK today, as Brits scramble to get protected for Christmas.
It comes as hospitals in parts of England have reportedly been asked to prep for a "mass casualty" event in the new year.
NHS managers fear around one third of staff could be off sick with Covid, The Independent reports.
It has stoked concern this will come at the same time hospitalisations of Omicron cases start to rise.
More than one in ten doctors are off work, and one in 24 off due to Covid, a report from the Royal College of Physicians found. In London it increases to one in 13 off sick with the virus.
After 48 hours of confusion and a Cabinet backlash, the PM finally confirmed that no new Covid restrictions will be brought in before the festive weekend.
But as the Omicron variant continued to surge, he warned that “the situation remains finely balanced”.
The threat of more curbs loomed as Mr Johnson said “we cannot rule out further measures after Christmas”.
Pubs could be forced to serve outside and indoor mixing capped as soon as next Tuesday.
Mr Johnson urged families holding festive get togethers to protect granny and grandpa from Covid by leaving windows open to “keep fresh air circulating”.
Yesterday confirmed cases of the new more infectious strain dipped slightly. Another 90,629 were reported along with 172 deaths.
But a ray of hope was sparked in suggestions restrictions after Christmas could be avoided altogether if hospital admissions in London stay under 400 a day, according to sources.
In the capital four out of five cases tested were Omicron, as the mutant bug continues to spread across the UK.
Hospital admissions in London are not the only measure being used to assess the severity of the strain – but it a key part of the decision making, the i reports.
At the UK’s peak in January, London’s admissions were reaching 900-a-day – compared to 245 Brits hospitalised in the capital on Sunday.
If they continue to stay at around the same figure, England could be looking forward to more freedom and less impact on the hospitality industry.
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