Covid vaccines are set to be offered to vulnerable primary school children in response to the spread of Omicron. Here’s what you need to know about children and the coronavirus jab
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As Omicron cases continue to surge, a low-dose version of the Covid vaccine for children has been approved for use in the UK.
After being given to over five million children in the US, drug regulatory body the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has deemed a low dosage of Pfizer-BioNTech as safe and effective for vulnerable children in the UK.
Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, has further assured that the vaccines are being offered to children after “expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met.”
She added that the side effects were mild, usually just a sore arm or flu-like symptoms.
So, how will vaccines work for children in the UK now?
How old do children need to be to get the vaccine?
The junior dose of the Covid vaccine has been approved for use for children aged five to 11 in the UK. These doses contain one-third of an adult dose and immunisations should be given eight weeks apart.
Right now, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said that vaccines are limited to about 330,000 children who are clinically vulnerable.
This is due to conditions such as severe neuro-disabilities, heart and lung diseases and cancer.
Children living with clinically vulnerable adults will also be offered it. However, a decision on vaccinating all five to 11-year-olds has not yet been made.
It’s not clear when the roll out of vaccines for children will happen though, as the priority currently is giving adults their third or booster dose in the face of the Omicron wave.
What is the minimum age for children to get the vaccine?
The minimum age for children to be vaccinated is five, if they have any underlying health conditions, according to JCVI’s Professor Wei Shen Lim.
Vaccinating vulnerable young children is thought to reduce visits to paediatric intensive care, but vaccinating healthy children is only likely to mildly affect hospital admissions.
So, decisions on wider vaccine rollouts will only be made in the New Year, especially since children are less severely affected by coronavirus.
Besides the lower doses for young, vulnerable children, the JCVI also recommended that the normal booster dose should be offered to:
- Children aged 16 and 17
- Children aged 12 to 15, if they are in an at-risk group or live with someone who is immunosuppressed
- Children aged 12 to 15, who have a severely weakened immune system, who should get four doses.
Children and young people who have completed a primary course of vaccination will also be offered a booster dose for added protection against the Omicron variant.