Children may have to be vaccinated to prevent their education being disrupted, a Government adviser has said.
Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, believes the move may help “keep things functioning” and prevent future lockdowns.
Covid rates among 10 to 19-year-olds in England have risen to their highest level for nearly two months.
They now stand a 109.8 cases per 100,000, up from 102.3 the previous week.
Ministers are awaiting safety data on the AstraZeneca vaccine before making a decision on whether children could be vaccinated.
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Prof Finn, speaking in a personal capacity, said: “Since more than 20% of the UK population are aged under 18, you simply can’t get above 80% coverage if you don’t immunise any children.”
Senior scientists are expecting another wave of virus at some point, mainly among the unvaccinated but including those for whom the vaccines do not work perfectly.
Older children are considered most likely to fuel new outbreaks. On current trends, most of the 11 million school-age children could be vaccinated before the autumn term.
However a decision may be delayed until regulators see how rapidly cases are rising as we go in to winter.
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Cambridge University’s Biostatistics Unit estimates the R number for England – the rate at which the virus spreading – is now just above one.
Wales is set to become the first home nation to offer vaccine to all over 50s and to younger vulnerable people.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said “This truly remarkable effort is down to the hard work of thousands working tirelessly on the front line.”
Why all our kids may need to have the jab
– Comment, by Professor Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at Bristol University
One of the very few good things about Covid is that it rarely affects children seriously.
Many other infections do, which helps explain why most vaccinations happen in childhood.
But Covid’s main target is adults, especially older ones, who are at much higher risk of hospital-isation and death.
On the other hand, most vaccines don’t just protect those who receive them but also safeguard others by driving down circulation of the infection.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Covid vaccines can do this too. But to have this effect it’s important that a big enough proportion of the population receives vaccine and has a good level of immunity as a result.
Since more than 20% of our population is under 18, you simply can’t get above 80% coverage if you don’t immunise any children.
So it may turn out that we need to vaccinate at least some and perhaps all of our youngsters il.
But would that be OK given the low risk of serious illness in children?
Well, a few do get seriously ill, so there’s some direct benefit there.
But the main way a school vaccine programme would help is that it would cut the risk of further disruption to education from school closures.