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COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to vulnerable children aged five to 11-years-old

Government vaccine advisers have said vulnerable primary school children should be offered a low dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

A low-dose version of a COVID-19 vaccine has recently been approved for use in the UK and is anticipated to be administered on vulnerable children, but the government has not yet made a decision on vaccinating all five to 11-year-olds.

Pfizer-BioNTech’s low dose vaccine contains one-third of the adult dose and immunisations should be administered eight weeks apart. This is widely given in other countries with over five million children having received it in the US. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has recently licensed this vaccine for use.

“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,” said Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA.

For now, the vaccine is anticipated to be limited to those who are deemed vulnerable due to conditions such as heart and lung diseases, cancer, and severe neuro-disability. This means that approximately 330,000 children will be eligible.

Prof Wei Shen Lim, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), commented: “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.”

In order to slow the rapid spread of Omicron, the NHS is currently prioritising providing adults their booster dose.

As the government hints at the return of restrictions after Christmas, schools are still anticipated to offer in-person teaching in January 2022. However, measures will be put in place to ensure the best protection for staff and students, and these include testing on return to school, improved classroom ventilation, enhanced hygiene, and increased vaccination uptake.