Now 5-11 year olds are vaccine targets

England and Northern Ireland have followed Scotland and Wales in announcing that all children aged 5-11 years will be offered the covid-19 vaccine.

Children will be offered two 10 μg doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses.

The decision was mad by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) despite them stating that over 85% of all children aged 5-11 will have had prior SARS-CoV-2 infection by the end of January 2022. Natural immunity arising from prior infection will contribute towards protection against future infection and severe disease, it advised.

The committee said that, in comparison with the rest of the population, children aged 5-11 had the very lowest risk from covid-19. However, vaccination of this group is anticipated to prevent a small number of hospital and intensive care admissions and would provide short term protection against non-severe infection. However, the JCVI says that the extent of these effects is highly uncertain and is closely related to the timing, size, and severity of any future waves of infection.

On 15 February Wales was the first country in the UK to announce that it would offer the vaccine to children aged 5-11. The following day Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, confirmed that health boards would deliver the vaccine to children in Scotland.

At that point the Department of Health and Social Care was still saying that it was “reviewing the JCVI’s advice as part of wider decision-making ahead of the publication of our long-term strategy for living with covid-19. More detail will be set out shortly.”

However, later on 16 February Javid said, “I have accepted the advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to make a non-urgent offer of covid-19 vaccines to all children aged 5-11 in England.”

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