ALL kids in the UK could have to be vaccinated to keep schools open if Covid infections spike again, says a government adviser.
In a huge boost for the fight against coronavirus, Pfizer said trials of its vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 showed 100 per cent efficacy and a strong immune response.
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Vaccinating kids may help "keep things functioning normally across society", according to Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Prof Finn said decisions on jabbing kids "will come later in the summer", depending on "whether it's going to be necessary to immunise children as well in order to keep the virus under control.
"The important aspect of that for children is that we desperately want to keep schools open into the next academic year and avoid any further disruption to education."
Currently, only children at very high risk of severe infection are offered a jab.
He told BBC Radio 4 that any extension of the UK's successful jab rollout to youngsters would be "driven" by how much of the virus is circulating.
Their possible inclusion would also depend on whether the bug presents any "jeopardy for children in terms of disruption to their education", Prof Finn added.
The proportion of pupils attending schools in England last week dropped as more children were forced to self-isolate at home, Government data suggests.
Latest stats show a slight rise in Covid cases among youngsters after schools reopened.
Nine in 10 state school pupils were in class on March 25 – down from 91 per cent on March 18, when all schools in England had fully returned, the Department for Education (DfE) analysis shows.
Some 220,000 pupils were out of class and self-isolating on Thursday last week due to potential contact with a Covid case, up from 169,000 pupils in the previous week.
The DfE estimates that approximately 3.3 per cent of all pupils on roll – up to 264,000 children – did not attend school for Covid-related reasons on March 25, up from 2.5 per cent on March 18.
Public Health England said the Covid infection rate for 10 to 19-year-olds stood at 100.7 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to March 21.
This was the highest rate across all age groups and was up week-on-week from 79.7.
Among five to nine-year-olds, the case rate spiked from 39.9 to 63.5 per 100,000, after children returned to the classroom from March 8 in England.
Prof Finn told Radio 4: "Of course, there are children who do get sick when they experience Covid."
But, he added, this is happening in "very small numbers, both from the sort of classic respiratory disease but also a few get this inflammatory syndrome that you may remember hearing about last year – we still see the occasional case coming in of that".
The expert said the issue of whether to vaccinate children at all, given they do not get seriously ill with coronavirus, was "a really important question".
He added: "One would not really be comfortable with immunising children entirely for the benefit of others and not for children.
"There are children that get sick as well, but I think the main reason for doing it would be to try and keep things functioning normally across society, including schools."
Senior scientists are expecting the UK to be hit by another wave of coronavirus at some point, mainly among the unvaccinated.
The University of Oxford is currently carrying out a clinical trial on kids to test the safety and efficacy of its vaccine in younger age groups, with initial results expected in summer.
The trial is working with partner sites in London, Southampton and Bristol and includes about 300 youngsters aged six to 17.
Prof Finn said there had been "no problems so far" in the trial on teenagers using the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He added that permission was expected to be granted shortly to recruit younger children from the age of five.
"Also, (we are) looking forward to studies in teenagers and also younger children with the Janssen vaccine, which we've been hearing about as another vaccine coming through for use, so quite a lot going on now in children," Prof Finn said.
Children in the UK could start getting a Covid vaccine from as early as August under provisional government plans.
It is possible that most of the 11million schoolkids could be vaccinated before the autumn term, The Telegraph reports.
One source involved in the planning told the paper "it could begin by late summer", specifically August.
And a government source familiar with the thinking reportedly said August was the "earliest" start.
But final decisions on whether to vaccinate kids in Britain will be made once safety data on the critical AstraZeneca child vaccine study being run by Oxford University are released. Conclusions are expected in June or July.
It is likely that parents would have to give consent – currently the position for teenagers in Israel.
Meanwhile, Pfizer said on Wednesday that trials of its Covid vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 showed 100 per cent efficacy and a strong immune response.
Pfizer said it now plans to seek approval for use of the vaccine in this age group from regulators around the world and hopes youngsters will start to receive the jab before the next school year.
The pharmaceutical company said it plans to submit the data to the UK regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – within the next couple of months.
Researchers examined the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in a trial of 2,260 teenagers in the US.
Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said: "Across the globe, we are longing for a normal life. This is especially true for our children.
"It is very important to enable them to get back to everyday school life and to meet friends and family while protecting them and their loved ones."
Clear pattern between Covid vaccination and people testing positive for antibodies
Across all four UK countries, modelled estimates show there is a clear pattern between jabs and people testing positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In England, an estimated 54.7% of the community population (in private households, excluding people in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings) "would have tested positive for antibodies on a blood test in the week ending March 14, 2021.
"This suggests they either had the infection in the past or have been vaccinated," the agency said.
In Wales, about 50.5% of the population would have tested positive for antibodies in the week ending March 14, 2021.
This compares to an estimated 49.3% of Northern Ireland's population and 42.6% of Scotland's population testing positive for antibodies in the week ending March 14.
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