Dr Albert Bourla said “there is no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favour” of the Covid vaccine for under-12s as the JCVI looks at whether to approve the jabs in the UK
Pressure to decide if five-year-olds should get Covid vaccines has risen after they were backed by the boss of Pfizer.
The pharmaceutical giant’s chief executive Dr Albert Bourla said the virus is “thriving” in schools and “there is no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favour of doing it”.
It comes as the UK’s vaccine watchdog prepares official advice on whether to offer jabs to kids aged 5 to 11. Currently those aged 12 and over are offered it.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said this week: “No vaccine is currently authorised in the UK for use in children aged 5 to 11 years.
“JCVI will continue to review data on the potential benefits and risks of vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years and will issue separate advice in due course.”
JCVI member Prof Adam Finn warned the “balance” of whether to vaccinate kids was “still quite uncertain”.
He told BBC Breakfast the main benefit of immunising children is “the indirect protection of adults”.
He added: “The extent to which we can do that and protect adults by avoiding them being infected by children with the current vaccines is still quite uncertain.
“So, that’s the balance – we clearly want to protect children as much as possible and we’ve got good evidence now that this vaccine, even at a low dose, produces a really good protective immune response in children and produces many fewer side effects because of the lower dose.
“The question really is that should that be our focus right now.
“Or should we really be focusing on adults who are the ones that much more commonly get seriously ill.”
The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer jab for younger children.
The boss of Pfizer said immunising that age group in the UK and Europe would be a good idea.
“Covid in schools is thriving,” he said.
“This is disturbing, significantly, the educational system, and there are kids that will have severe symptoms.”
No10 said it would wait for the scientists to make a recommendation.
It comes as Brits look set to get a fourth dose of the Covid vaccine after the UK signed deals for 114 million additional jab doses lasting up to 2023.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed deals for extra doses of Pfizer and Moderna have been accelerated in light of fears over the new Omicron variant.
The new deals for 2022 and 2023 include access to modified vaccines if existing jabs are found to be less effective against the worrying new strain.
That appears to suggest Brits could be offered a fourth dose, given the supply would be more than enough to do so.
It is not yet clear whether the vaccines will need to be tweaked every year for new variants, as happens with the annual flu jab.
Pfizer boss Dr Bourla said he believed Covid vaccination will become an annual event.