Children 'may need to get Covid jabs to avoid disrupting education'
"We have said several times before, the key thing with children is safety."
Professor Chris Whitty has said that children may need to be vaccinated in order to avoid any future disruption to their education and schools.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Monday, in which Boris Johnson announced a four-week delay to the lifting of remaining lockdown restrictions, Professor Whitty explained the thinking on potentially beginning to vaccinate children.
The Chief Medical Officer for England pointed out that some countries were already licensing the use of vaccines on under-18s.
He said: "We have said several times before, the key thing with children is safety. We know that the risks in terms of physical disease to children other than some children with significant pre-existing problems of physical health are much, much lower than adults.
"So, you wouldn't want to vaccinate unless the vaccine was very, very safe, and vaccines are now being licenced in some countries and we’re recrewing safety data on the safety of these in children."
Whitty went on to outline the two main reasons for countries wanting to begin rolling out the jab across younger age groups. The first of these is to vaccinate those youngsters who are at high risk of serious illness as a result of Covid. The second was that vaccinating pupils would safeguard their education and go a long way to guaranteeing that schools would not need to be closed for prolonged periods again like they previously have been during the pandemic.
"There are two possible reasons you would want to vaccinate children potentially, but with caution, and this is the point I'm trying to stress," he said.
"The first would be those groups who are actually at high risk of Covid, and the JCVI will be bringing forward advice on this.
"Those children specifically should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of them having severe disease, and in a very, very small number of cases it does happen, mortality.
"But the wider question is around the effects on children’s education, and are the multiple disruptions that might happen going to have a negative impact on their life chances, including the effect it will have on long-term risk of physical and mental ill-health."
Large-scale trials are underway to establish the safety of Covid jabs on children, with data showing that vaccines are extremely safe and effective on under 16s.
It is thought that school pupils in the UK could be offered the vaccine as early as August.