Coronavirus vaccines for five-year-olds could be premature, warn paediatricians

Posted: 22nd November 2021

Concern grows over extending vaccine rollout to younger children after it emerged they could be offered shot next spring.

Vaccinating primary school children is premature, Britain’s top paediatric body has said, after it emerged those as young as five could be offered the Covid jab next spring.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) on Saturday night called for better real-world evidence of the risks to the heart before widening the rollout further.

It came after leaked NHS documents revealed provisional plans to offer the vaccine to children aged five to 11 in the first half of 2021.

Young children face a miniscule risk of serious disease from Covid-19 itself. A recent study showed only six healthy children have died from the virus in England.

However, there are concerns surrounding a very small risk of a heart inflammation condition called myocarditis from the Pfizer jab.

Any decision to offer the jab to primary school-aged children would almost certainly be made to protect wider society, rather than the individuals themselves.

Dr David Elliman, an immunisation expert at the RCPCH, said: “You have to be absolutely certain, if that is your primary reason, that you’re not going to do any harm to the children.

“The uncertainty for five to 11 at the moment is great. People will be demanding more evidence than we have in the UK before we go ahead with it.”

Two studies from Israel have suggested that the risk of myocarditis following the Pfizer vaccine is very low.

One, including more than five million Pfizer recipients, discovered 136 cases, while the other study of more than 2.5 million identified just 54 cases.

The vast majority of those patients only suffered mild inflammation and recovered quickly.

However, Dr Elliman said studies on the long-term effect on children’s hearts are needed, such as from the US, where they have begun vaccinating children as young as five, and Israel, where they plan to start imminently.

“We will get a significant amount of data from places like the US and we will have the benefit of their real-world experience,” he said.

Tighter restrictions return across Europe

It came as five European countries faced the threat lockdown within days after cases surged on the continent.

Austria will return to lockdown on Monday, but Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic are also facing renewed restrictions.

Police in Rotterdam reportedly fired at protesters against a new partial lockdown on Saturday, with the Dutch invoking emergency powers.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands marched in Austria against the sweeping new restrictions.

Responding to reports of the NHS “planning scenario”, a health service spokesman said: “The NHS regularly plans for how it would operationalise opening vaccines to more people so it is ready to extend the jab quickly when and if any decision is recommended by the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation].”

Before the vaccine is extended to five- to 11-year-olds, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency would have to declare it safe, before which the JCVI, which advises ministers on the rollout, would also need to give the green light.

 Source: The Telegraph

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