Vaccinating children as young as five years old in the UK against coronavirus is a long way off, England’s chief doctor said today.
Professor Chris Whitty pointed out that the UK’s medical watchdog has not even approved Covid jabs for under 11s as it has not yet examined data for the age group.
And a decision to roll out the vaccine to younger age groups will depend on the evidence presented to Britain’s top researchers, he told a news conference.
So ‘let’s not rush this,’ added Professor Whitty.
The press conference came after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) today announced that it recommended a second dose for 16- and 17-year-olds and booster jabs for 8 million people in their 40s.
The UK has so far limited the rollout of vaccine to over 12 years due to the small risk of serious illness to which young people are exposed by the virus.
And those aged 15 and under receive only a single dose because cases of a very rare cardiac inflammation-related side effect called myocarditis are most common after the second injection.
But the United States and a handful of other nations have already pushed ahead with the proliferation of under-12s, and Britain has come under increasing pressure to follow suit from certain corners of the medical community.
Professor Chris Whitty pointed out that the UK’s medical watchdog has not even approved any jab for under-11s yet. And a decision to roll out the vaccine to the age group will depend on the data presented to Britain’s top researchers, he told a news conference. So ‘let’s not rush this,’ added Professor Whitty
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) announced today that it recommended a second dose for 16- and 17-year-olds and booster jabs for 8 million people in their 40s. Pictured: a health worker preparing a dose of Covid vaccine
Professor Whitty suggested that any decision to vaccinate five to 11-year-olds against coronavirus is far away.
He said: ‘We have not even got a license with MHRA yet [Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency] so let’s not rush our fence on this.
“It will depend entirely on the data presented to the Independent Regulator and the Independent Scientific Advisory Committee.”
The MHRA has not yet decided whether to offer the vaccine to younger groups because it has not yet examined data from the United States, which already administers the Covid vaccine to five- to 11-year-olds.
Boris says he CANNOT rule out Xmas lockdown
Boris Johnson admitted today that a Christmas lockdown was not entirely off the cards as he made a desperate plea to the British to get their booster jabs, and Britain’s daily Covid cases continued to rise.
The Prime Minister – who appeared to be suffering from a cold – warned that ‘storm clouds’ of infection were gathering across Europe, forcing nations back to restrictions, highlighting how Britain ‘can not afford to be complacent’.
He said people should get a booster if they want to ‘avoid restrictions in everyday life’, adding that it would be a ‘complete tragedy’ if double-vaccinated people died of Covid because they did not get one.
Johnson also admitted that people might need proof of a booster jab to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ in the future, in a move that could cause new chaos for Britain’s travel plans.
The warnings came when the UK recorded a further 39,705 daily coronavirus infections, which rose almost a quarter compared to last Monday’s figures. But deaths and hospitalizations – both delaying indicators – fell week-on-week.
There were 47 Covid victims registered today, a decrease of 18 percent compared to last week, and latest hospital data show that there were 976 admissions on November 9, a decrease of 7.5 percent.
The Prime Minister issued his warning at a press conference in Downing Street, where he also confirmed that people in their forties will be offered a booster jab and older teenagers will be given a second dose.
Asked if a shutdown would be necessary if cases continue to rise, the prime minister said “it is clear we can not rule anything out” but insisted he saw nothing in the data that says we should go now.
The comments came after Austria announced a draconian new shutdown of unvaccinated people following a dramatic increase in infections, and the Netherlands introduced a curfew for pubs and restaurants to deal with rising cases.
Germany, France and Italy have also seen a significant increase in their outbreaks. The prime minister was joined today by his chief researchers Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance at the government’s first Covid briefing of the month.
The Agency examines all clinical trials and safety data from Covid vaccine manufacturers applying for a UK license before deciding whether jab is safe and effective for a particular age group.
JCVI then advises No10 on whether this cohort should be given the injections as part of the vaccine rollout after weighing the benefits and risks.
The group discouraged ministers from stabbing 12- to 15-year-olds because children face such a small threat from Covid.
It also warned about the risk of a rare vaccine side effect called myocarditis, which can cause heart damage.
Critics say children are better off catching the virus and getting natural protection because the risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit is about one in 500,000.
But the JCVI panel – which only looked at a rigid set of criteria – recommended that Britain’s top doctors get the last word.
Professor Chris Whitty and colleagues ultimately decided to recommend jabs to 12-15 year olds because modeling showed it would prevent thousands from having to take time off from school.
Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the JCVI, said earlier this month that it was ‘too early’ to say whether it would recommend vaccinating children under the age of 12.
But he said there is “an argument for using a vaccine on those children who have underlying diseases that make them more vulnerable” to the virus.
And Professor Jonathan Van-Tam Professor, England’s Deputy Chief Physician, said JCVI ‘will consider’ whether they will follow the US in expanding the rollout to over five. But the decision is ‘a bit off track’, he added.
It happens when JCVI today announced that 16- and 17-year-olds will be offered a second dose of their Covid vaccine, which it found increases the level and duration of protection.
They will receive the second vaccine 12 weeks after their first jab because evidence suggests that longer intervals reduce the risk of side effects.
Officials had delayed a decision on the second dose while investigating reports of myocarditis in young people.
But JCVI said recent data from the United Kingdom and Canada, which leave three months instead of a month between doses, showed that the rate of heart disease is “closer to the reporting rate after the first dose”.
Most cases of myocarditis go away within a short time and respond well to treatment, the group said.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, JCVI’s President of Covid Immunization, said: ‘Booster vaccine doses in more vulnerable adults and second vaccine dose in 16- to 17-year-olds are important ways to increase our protection against Covid infection and serious illness.
“These vaccinations will also help extend our protection into 2022. If you are eligible, be sure to have these vaccines and stay protected as we enter the winter.”
The United States, Chile, Cuba and six other countries are some of the only nations in the world to vaccinate children under the age of 12 against Covid.
Due to its controversial nature, very few nations have yet taken the step of vaccinating young people, while only eight other countries do.
In El Salvador, Chile, Ecuador and Indonesia, children aged six and older are starting to get their first shots.
In Argentina, Bahrain, China and the United Arab Emirates, vaccines have been approved for children under three years of age.
Meanwhile, in Cuba, children as young as two are being shot.
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