The government will offer a Covid vaccine to all five to 11-year-olds in England from April, Sajid Javid has confirmed.
The health secretary said he had accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that primary-age pupils should receive a “non-urgent offer” of two doses of a paediatric version of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The vaccine is currently only offered to the most at-risk children in the five to 11 age group.
Javid said children without underlying health conditions were at “low risk of serious illness from Covid-19”, and the “priority” for the NHS was vaccines and boosters for adults and vulnerable young people, and “catch-up” with other childhood immunisation programmes.
“The NHS will prepare to extend this non-urgent offer to all children during April so parents can, if they want, take up the offer to increase protection against potential future waves of Covid-19 as we learn to live with this virus.”
It is not clear whether this round of vaccines will be offered in schools. The Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England said they would “advise on their plans for operationalising the latest JCVI recommendations in due course”.
Parents are “urged not to contact the NHS until further details have been set out”.
Covid vaccine ‘should not displace’ other jabs
But the JCVI said its recommendation “should not displace the delivery of other non-Covid-19 childhood vaccinations, or any other part of the Covid-19 vaccination programme”.
Uptake of some non-Covid childhood vaccination programmes, such as MMR and HPV vaccinations, have been “affected by the pandemic”, the JCVI warned, and the rollout of vaccines to younger children “should not impact the recovery of these programmes”.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 immunisation on the JCVI, said the committee had “carefully considered the potential direct health impacts of vaccination and potential indirect educational impacts”.
“The main purpose of offering vaccination to 5-11 year olds is to increase their protection against severe illness in advance of a potential future wave of Covid-19.”