Last week, the Pfizer Covid vaccine was approved for 12 to 15 year olds in the UK, following successful trials.
As the eligible vaccine age creeps lower and lower, with over 25s now able to book, Many are wondering when – and if – children will receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
But is the vaccine safe for children, and what is the chance they will be offered it?
Metro.co.uk spoke to some immunology experts to see what they think.
Is the Covid vaccine safe for children?
Covid-19 vaccines have been proved to be safe for children, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.
Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, assured Metro.co.uk that the vaccines have an ‘excellent safety profile’.
Riley explained: ‘The current consensus within the immunological community is that we can see some benefits of vaccinating 12-18 years olds in terms of reducing community transmission of the virus, reducing disruption to schooling from enforced quarantining and possibly (although we have little firm data on this yet) reducing the incidence of long-Covid in teenagers.
‘Data from large scale vaccination of 12-18 years olds in the USA suggests that the mRNA vaccines have an excellent safety profile in this age group.’
In the US, trials of the vaccine in children began earlier this year.
The jab was well-tolerated, with side effects similar to those seen among people aged 16 to 25 in the adult trial, such as headaches and mild flu-like symptoms.
Pfizer’s vaccine has since been approved for use in kids between the ages of 12 and 15, with 600,000 American children in that age range having received the jab in the first week of rollout.
However, no vaccine has yet been approved for children below the age of 12. Moderna and Pfizer are among the companies currently running trials on those ages six months to 11 years.
In May, Pfizer said it expects to request emergency authorisation for this age group during the final quarter of 2021.
The exact timing will depend on how quickly the company can finish the study in this age group.
Moderna hasn’t indicated when it will have results from this trial.
Scientists working on the Oxford jab have paused vaccine trials on children over blood clot fears.
Why children may never be offered the Covid vaccine
In May, the Department of Health and Social Care said that no firm decisions have yet been made on whether to rollout the vaccine to children.
It appears that it is all dependent on clinical trial results and advice from scientists.
The main reason why children may never be offered the vaccine is because the virus is seldom serious for them.
A study across seven countries, published in the Lancet in March, estimated that fewer than two out of every million children died with Covid-19 during the pandemic.
Only those that are considered ‘high risk’ are currently recommended to be vaccinated, and they are being encouraged to book a jab now.
The Office for National Statistics recently announced that more than a quarter of 16 and 17-year-olds in England have coronavirus antibodies in their blood despite barely any of them being vaccinated.
So the UK could find it has enough immunity to stop the virus spreading without needing to vaccinate children.
Due to the low mortality rate among children, Daniel Davis, Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester, says that ensuring the worldwide distribution of the vaccines may be more beneficial for controlling the disease than prioritising kids in Britain.
He explained to Metro.co.uk: ‘One strong argument against vaccinating children is that in terms of saving lives right now, immunising children in a few countries well-placed to do this is probably less of a priority than getting a more equitable distribution of vaccines across the globe.’
This opinion was shared by Riley, who told Metro.co.uk that the decision to vaccinate British children will not be medical, it will be ‘political’.
She said: ‘These priorities need to be set against the ongoing global shortage of vaccine and the need to rapidly scale up vaccination in many low and middle income countries, to save lives, restore economies and reduce the emergence of new variants.
‘In the end this will be a political decision – do we prioritise UK teenagers (and the UK economy and life style) over the poor and vulnerable communities around the world?’
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