A Government adviser has urged ministers to consider vaccinating school-aged children to protect them from coronavirus.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), revealed ‘on balance’ he has come to the view children need to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Experts are still divided on whether Britain should begin vaccinating children this summer, with some insisting it would help deal with the Indian variant but critics suggesting supplies should be used to squash the pandemic abroad first.
But Professor Openshaw said because children are now spreading the Delta variant, first discovered in India, in schools the case for vaccination is stronger.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘A lot of people are sitting on the fence about this but I think on balance I’m coming to the view that vaccination of children – there’s a very strong argument there.’
Professor Peter Openshaw (pictured), a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), revealed ‘on balance’ he has come to the view children need to be vaccinated against Covid-19
He said the vaccine was safe for children, while prolonged symptoms of coronavirus meant one in ten sufferers have not fully recovered.
He added: ‘Originally with the Wuhan strain it didn’t seem there was very much amplification of the epidemic going on amongst people who were at school in contrast to what we know about influenza, where schools are often the major driver of spread.
‘But with these more transmissible variants it is evident that they are being transmitted much more amongst young adults and school children and even younger children and that seems perhaps to be a change in the biological quality of the infection.
‘It’s still fortunately not causing very high disease rates amongst those kids but it does strengthen the argument against vaccination.’
He said the Government ‘absolutely needs to have the discussion’ as research proves the ‘safety and efficacy in terms of generating an antibody response in children’.
Professor Openshaw said because children are now spreading the Delta variant, first discovered in India, in schools the case for vaccination is stronger. Pictured, a teenager, aged 16, is given the vaccine
He added: ‘We’re also quite concerned about the prolonged symptoms that some people do experience after acute infection and there is a sort of u-shaped curve in the perception of recovery from Covid in that older people and also much younger people don’t feel perfectly back to full health after covid.
‘1 in 10 are getting prolonged symptoms and I think that’s another argument for extending vaccination.’
Meanwhile, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week approved Pfizer‘s Covid vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds.
But no decision has yet been taken on whether to extend the rollout to under-18s once all adults have been offered a jab.
And there are now concerns in the US that the Pfizer jab might have health risks for children that outweigh the benefits, with officials there fearing around 200 cases of heart damage among under-30s could have been linked to the jab.
He said the Government ‘absolutely needs to have the discussion’ as research proves the ‘safety and efficacy in terms of generating an antibody response in children’ (file image)
The MHRA said it has not seen any such cases in the UK but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that young adults or children should not be given the AstraZeneca jab unless it’s the only option because of a small blood clot risk.
The JCVI is expected to tell ministers the move to give jabs to children would be a ‘political decision’.
Scientists claim rolling out the vaccine to children would help crack down on the rampant spread of the Delta variant.
Cases of the mutant strain have more than tripled in a week to 42,000 and the strain appears to be spreading 64 per cent faster than the Kent variant.
Dr Simon Clarke (left) said vaccinating children or teenagers ‘can only help’ to control the spread of the coronavirus while Professor David Livermore (right) said it was ethically difficult because children were not the ones being protected by their own jabs
Dr Simon Clarke, a cellular microbiologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline vaccinating all children would ensure they do not spread the variant further, particularly to older people whose immunity from vaccines earlier in the year could be on the wane.
He said: ‘We don’t yet know how much if any of the Indian variant has gone through schools but undeniably children, particularly teenagers, are potential vectors for spreading it round.
US REGULATOR FLAGS CONCERNS ABOUT HEART DAMAGE
Britain’s medical regulator yesterday revealed it has not yet detected any link between Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid vaccines and heart damage, despite US officials calling an urgent meeting over growing fears there is a connection.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which polices the safety of drugs in the UK, said it is ‘closely monitoring reports of myocarditis and pericarditis received with the Covid vaccines’.
It has recorded just 34 cases of myocarditis after Pfizer jabs — a similar number to after the AstraZeneca vaccine — and only two after Moderna, but says numbers ‘similar or below expected background levels’.
Meanwhile, US health chiefs have announced officials will gather on June 18 to discuss 226 plausible cases of heart inflammation in under-30s given the jabs in America.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bosses yesterday admitted the number of cases was higher than expected and that most were in boys and young men. However, they insisted the complication was still rare.
Among the cases spotted in the US, three are in intensive care, 15 are hospitalised and 41 have ongoing symptoms.
The CDC continues to urge everyone aged 12 and older in the US to get vaccinated and says it is not clear if either condition is actually caused by the shots.
The average age for people suffering the condition in the US was 24 — who have yet to begin routinely receiving their jabs in Britain — and comparatively few Moderna doses have been dished out in the UK.
‘So if we can put a firewall in with younger people, then it can only help.’
But if children were to be invited for jabs, they would be receiving Moderna or Pfizer vaccines — the latter of which is expected to have supply squeezed over the coming month.
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday admitted supply of the American drug manufacturer’s jab would be ‘tight’, which could potentially prevent children being invited this summer with second doses for those who have already had Pfizer being prioritised in the coming months.
And there are calls to donate supplies abroad to developing nations where the majority of adults have still not had a first dose.
Dr Clarke said: ‘What you’ve got to remember is there are lots of elderly people in this country who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine.
‘That appears to be not as protective certainly against milder disease and transmission.
‘There are always going to be a lot of people in this country who — despite doing the right thing and getting their jabs — are not going to be protected. That’s just the way these thing work.
‘So the idea that it’s okay because we’ve jabbed everybody, that doesn’t mean everyone is fully protected.’
But jabbing children over the summer would rely on having enough vaccines to dish out.
With thousands of under-30s now receiving jabs after the vaccine roll-out picked up pace, demand for doses of Pfizer has now soared beyond supply levels.
Scottish MP Humza Yousaf told Matt Hancock in a letter that supplies of the jab are to be ‘particularly tight over the next few weeks’, not just in Scotland but across the UK, according to the i newspaper.
Mr Zahawi admitted supply would fall this month but insisted the UK remains on target to give first doses to all adults by
He told LBC: ‘I’m confident that Scotland will be able to meet the target of offering every adult at least one dose by the end of July as we will in England as well.’
MailOnline analysis of official figures shows even with consistent supply and 100 per cent uptake, all adults in the UK may not have received their final inoculation until September 18 — making it difficult to justify handing out first doses to children beforehand.
There are also safety concerns surrounding Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine in young people, particularly men.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US today confirmed it would be meeting to discuss 226 plausible cases of heart inflammation in the UK that have been linked to the companies’ jabs.
Experts are divided on whether Britain should begin vaccinating children this summer, with some insisting jabs are safe but critics suggesting supplies should be used to squash the pandemic abroad first
Why children are less affected by Covid-19
Children are less at risk of developing severe Covid symptoms and dying from the disease due to a host of differences between the bodies and immune systems of youngsters and adults, a study shows.
Australian researchers have identified several specific physiological differences which may explain why Covid-19 is rarely severe or fatal in children.
These include strong, undamaged cells in their blood vessels which prevent inflammation and clotting; elevated levels of vitamin D; an immune system that is both fast acting and well-oiled; and fewer ACE2 receptors, which the coronavirus uses to infect cells.
While Covid-19 causes well-documented respiratory problems in adults, particularly the vulnerable and elderly, other respiratory conditions also plague children.
However, society’s youngest are demonstrably less affected by coronavirus infection, making up only a tiny proportion of cases, hospital admissions and deaths.
A recent study from the US looked at hospital admissions of children at seven different hospitals and found just just four per cent of children test positive for the virus.
The research looked at tests of more than 135,000 children who went to hospital for various reasons before September 8.
It revealed only 5,374 (4.0 per cent) of patients tested positive and, of this small percentage, only 359 (6.7 per cent) were hospitalised, with 99 in intensive care.
Eight of the infected patients (0.15 per cent) later died. Six of the deaths were patients with ‘complex preexisting comorbidities’, the scientists say.
But why this is the case has thus far remained a mystery, with scientists and doctors trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.
The condition was seen most among people aged 24 and younger and the CDC admitted the number was higher than expected.
UK faces shortage of Pfizer vaccines throughout June
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday admitted that supply of the Pfizer vaccine will be tight over the next few weeks but insisted that it was ‘stable’.
It comes after Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf warned supply of the Pfizer vaccine will be ‘particularly tight’ over the next few weeks.
Mr Zahawi told LBC: ‘I am absolutely confident, and I’ll speak to Humza on this, that we will be able to deliver the Pfizer vaccines that Scotland needs to be able to meet its targets for end of July, as the United Kingdom target.’
Asked if it is going to be ‘tight’ in the next few weeks, he said: ‘It will be, there is no doubt. Every time I’ve come on your show I’ve said that the determining factor in terms of vaccine in arms is supply.
‘And supply remains finite, but it is stable, and Pfizer have done a great job in being consistent on their delivery schedule.’
But there is no evidence to suggest the condition was definitely caused by the jabs and the MHRA said numbers ‘similar or below expected background levels’ in the UK.
Nevertheless, there are legitimate concerns around safety, especially considering giving out vaccines to youngsters mainly serves to benefit adults rather than the children themselves, according to Professor David Livermore, microbiologist at the University of East Anglia.
Professor Livermore told MailOnline: ‘The argument against vaccinating children is ethical.
‘Children don’t get severe Covid and so aren’t being vaccinated for their own protection.
‘And, whilst the speed with which vaccines have been developed is a great credit to the pharma industry, it is inevitable that that they haven’t been through such extensive evaluation as normally required for a vaccine.’
But he added vaccinating children would ‘boost the level of herd immunity in the population’.
He said: ‘It would prevent schools becoming reservoirs for the virus, which might spread back to the minority of unvaccinated adults or those with waning immunity.’
Experts have also called for the UK to donate the doses that could be earmarked for children to developing nations that are significantly lagging behind in their rollouts.
Britain on Thursday said it would give at least 100million surplus vaccines to the world’s poorest nations. Mr Zahawi said the donations would not affect the domestic vaccine program.
He said: ‘No doses that are required for Scotland, for Northern Ireland, for Wales, for England are being taken away by our announcement [on donating vaccines].’
Where else have myocarditis and pericarditis been linked to Covid vaccines or Pfizer been banned for teenagers?
Israel was one of the first to warn of health concerns linked to the Pfizer vaccine.
The country claimed in early June that its research showed Pfizer’s vaccine is the ‘probable’ cause of heart inflammation in a very small number of people who get the jab.
The Health Ministry had found 148 cases of myocarditis soon after the patient had been vaccinated.
In total, 275 cases were spotted among the more than five million people given the Pfizer jab in Israel, which has had one of the world’s most successful jab rollouts.
In the remaining 127 cases, it is unclear if they are linked to the vaccine.
This was equivalent to just 0.005 per cent of recipients, or one in 20,000 people.
For the 148 cases ‘probably’ linked to the jab, the rate was 0.003 per cent — although half of them had other underlying health problems.
At least one health official in Canada has also linked the Pfizer vaccine to heart inflammation.
Dr Peter Liu, chief scientific officer at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and an expert in myocarditis, last week said he has seen two cases he believes are linked to vaccination over the last month.
He told the Ottawa Citizen: ‘One can never be sure, but it is more than coincidental.
‘We are learning more about this every day.’
The European Medicines Agency confirmed in May it was looking into cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in people who had received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
It said: ‘There is no indication at the moment that these cases are due to the vaccine.’
Germany’s vaccine advisory committee, known as STIKO, yesterday recommended only children and adolescents with pre-existing conditions should be given the Pfizer vaccine.
STIKO said it recommends a vaccination only for those youngsters with an illness that raises their risk of a serious case of coronavirus.
It said it was not currently recommending the use of the vaccine for those aged 12 to 17 without pre-existing conditions, although noted doctors were allowed to give the shot if the individual accepts the risk.
Germany has said it plans to offer shots to children as young as 12 from June after the European health regulator authorised the vaccine for use in adolescents last month.
STIKO committee member Ruediger von Kriess, a paediatrics professor, said previously it might be preferable to endorse the vaccine for use in children only if they have risk factors given the lack of data on long-term effects.