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Should we vaccinate children against Covid-19?

Vaccinations are bringing a lot of controversy ahead of recent legislation announced by Boris Johnson. It appears that it will be made almost compulsory to be vaccinated in order to live a normal life; as new rules are implicated for those attending University in September, those wishing to go abroad and now even anyone attending nightclubs after the end of September. But a question that many are pondering is if children should be vaccinated?

Many parents are in a quandary if it is best for their child to be vaccinated against Covid-19, currently information is still lacking as to whether the vaccine could do more harm than good to young children as valid data is insufficient in providing this evidence.

On July 19th, vaccine advisors in the United Kingdom recommended delaying vaccines for most young people under 16, citing the very low rates of serious disease in this age group. But several countries, including the United States and Israel, have forged ahead, and others are hoping to follow suit when supplies allow.

JCVI has advised ministers that the following groups should be offered the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. This is the only vaccine authorised by the MHRA for 12-17-year olds in the UK. 12-15-year olds who are at increased risk of serious COVID-19 disease and hospitalisation in the following groups:

  • Those with severe neuro-disabilities
  • Those with immunosuppression
  • Those with Down Syndrome
  • Those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities, or on GP the learning disability register
  • 12-17-year olds who are household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed
  • Those turning 18 in the next three months.

These groups are in addition to those JCVI prioritised in earlier phases of the vaccination programme, i.e., those who are 16 years and over in an at-risk group (as defined by Table 3 of the Green Book).

The effects of Covid-19 are much less likely to cause severe illness or deaths in healthy children than they are in adults, bringing comfort to parents and therefore bringing less urgency to vaccinate children. Due to the mild effects of Coronavirus on children and adolescence, it is possible that the vaccine could do more damage than the actual virus as the consequences are still largely unknown and so the risk is not worth taking. Government advisers are currently reviewing evidence on the risk of COVID-19 in children and young people considered clinically extremely vulnerable. Once this review has been reported, the finding will be considered by JCVI and will inform further guidance.

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