Children could be vaccinated against Covid-19 as a way of preventing disruption to their education, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said.
Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol, said vaccinating youngsters may help “keep things functioning normally across society”, as coronavirus continues to circulate even when all adults have been offered a vaccine.
Senior scientists are expecting the UK to be hit by another wave of coronavirus at some point, mainly among the unvaccinated, but including those for whom the vaccines do not work perfectly.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Finn told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the issue of whether to vaccinate children at all, given they do not get seriously ill with coronavirus, was “a really important question”.
He added: “One would not really be comfortable with immunising children entirely for the benefit of others and not for children.
“I think if it does look as though it’s necessary, that will be driven by the observation that the virus is still circulating and there’s jeopardy for children in terms of disruption to their education.
“I think that probably squares the circle if it does prove necessary.
I think if it does look as though it’s necessary, that will be driven by the observation that the virus is still circulating and there’s jeopardy for children in terms of disruption to their educationProfessor Adam Finn
“Of course, there are children who do get sick when they experience Covid, but very small numbers, both from the sort of classic respiratory disease but also a few get this inflammatory syndrome that you may remember hearing about last year, we still see the occasional case coming in of that.
“There are children that get sick as well, but I think the main reason for doing it would be to try and keep things functioning normally across society, including schools.”
The University of Oxford is currently carrying out a clinical trial on children to test the safety and efficacy of its vaccine in younger age groups, with initial results expected in the summer.
The trial is working with partner sites in London, Southampton and Bristol and includes about 300 youngsters aged six to 17.
Prof Finn said there had been “no problems so far” in the trial on teenagers using the AstraZeneca vaccine, adding that permission was expected to be granted shortly to recruit younger children from the age of five.
“Also, (we are) looking forward to studies in teenagers and also younger children with the Janssen vaccine, which we’ve been hearing about as another vaccine coming through for use, so quite a lot going on now in children,” he said.
It comes after Pfizer said on Wednesday that trials of its Covid vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 showed 100% efficacy and a strong immune response.
Prof Finn said decisions on vaccinating children “will come later in the summer”.
He added: “I think what we’ll be seeing really is the impact of the vaccine programme so far as we move down through the adult population, and forming an opinion as to whether it’s going to be necessary to immunise children as well in order to keep the virus under control.
“The important aspect of that for children is that we desperately want to keep schools open into the next academic year and avoid any further disruption to education.
“I think this would benefit children if it turns out to be necessary but, clearly, we don’t want to do this unless it is necessary, because it would be an additional difficulty, costs and so on.”