One of Britain’s leading child health experts said there was not enough evidence to support vaccination of children against Covid, and the body that will make the decision whether or not to strike the under 18-year-old has indicated he will take a cautious approach.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said there was “rock solid data” to show that the risk of serious harm to children from Covid was “incredibly low”.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast in his personal capacity, he said that not enough was yet known about the possible harmful side effects if children were given Covid injections.
The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine has been approved by the UK Medicines Regulator for children aged 12 to 15, and is administered to these age groups in the US and Israel.
Professor Anthony Harnden, vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization, said he would decide in a few weeks whether to allow vaccination of children.
“JCVI is keenly aware of the issues surrounding both the pros and cons of vaccinating their children, which we will talk about in due course, but in fact what we need to be absolutely sure of is that these vaccines are taking advantage. children one way or another… so we look at that data very carefully, ”Harnden told the BBC Radio 4 Today program.
He added: “It’s clear we’re going to have to make it a point of view over the next few weeks. “
Semple said, “There is a very nuanced debate going on here, but at the moment I don’t think there is enough evidence to support immunizing children.
“We have looked very carefully at the Sars-Cov infection in children during the second wave and the first wave, so we have really strong data, and the risks of serious illness, and even the risk of long Covid. and multi-inflammatory syndrome, are incredibly low.
He added: “Vaccines are safe, but not entirely without risk. We are aware of clots in adults, and there is safety data from America showing rare heart problems associated with some of the vaccines. So until that data is really complete for the kids. I am not convinced that the risk benefit for children has been clarified.
Semple, a member of the Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats, suggested there was not enough data available for JCVI to approve childhood immunizations.
“I am not convinced that the evidence base is strong enough to support immunization of children, because we do not have complete data on the safety of the vaccines that we would like to use,” he said.
Harnden said the JCVI was very concerned about a flu outbreak this winter, as it confirmed that flu and Covid booster shots could be given to people at the same time.
He said: “It makes a lot of sense to try to deliver both vaccines operationally at the same time, if we are able to do that. We’re very, very worried on JCVI about the flu this year as there will likely be a lot smoother circulation, due to the low flu levels last winter. So we really, really want as many people as possible to get the flu shot, of the eligible people. “