A decision on whether to approve Covid jabs for children as young as five is expected before Christmas, a government vaccine advisor has said.
Regulators are currently deliberating whether the UK should follow the US and offer jabs to those aged between five and 11.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the Covid-19 panel of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told MPs that extending the rollout was being discussed ‘at the moment.’
But the decision depends on approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which hasn’t yet said whether the vaccines can be used for youngsters.
Pressed on whether a recommendation will be made before Christmas, Prof Shen Lim said: ‘I expect so, we try to keep in step with the approval process.’
But he told the Science and Technology committee that he would not double guess what the MHRA might do.
Speaking during the same session in parliament, the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt asked the scientist why regulators are ‘dragging their feet.’
‘America has already made a decision that it’s safe to vaccinate the over-fives with Pfizer, we haven’t made a decision yet,’ Mr Hunt said.
He asked Prof Shen Lim why decisions in the UK are taking longer now after the country became the first in the world to begin administering Covid vaccines last year.
Mr Hunt also grilled the scientist on why booster jabs were not rolled out for the entire adult population earlier, something which could have averted some the current risk from the Omicron variant.
The NHS is now racing to offer third doses to all over 18s before the end of the year and there have been big queues at vaccine walk-in centres.
Prof Shen Lim responded: ‘I don’t think you can predict that a variant of Omicron would have emerged.’
He added: ‘If you look at the different decisions that have been made, there is a time, I believe, to be extra fast, there’s a time to move extra cautiously.
‘We’ve moved very quickly at the start when there was a need to, we moved very quickly when Alpha emerged and we needed to change the advice, and we moved very quickly when Omicron emerged and we’ve changed our advice.
‘So, where we need to move very quickly, we will do so, where we feel that we do not want to outpace the data for safety reasons, we feel will do so. Both of these obviously are judgments as to how quickly one moves and we have made out those judgments based on the best available information.’
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