The UK is “past the point” where vaccinating healthy children against Covid-19 will make a difference, a leading medical expert has said.
Paul Hunter, the Professor in Medicine at the University in East Anglia, told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “I would lean against offering it to this age group for a number of reasons.”
“Although we’ve seen very high infection rates in children in recent weeks, they are actually falling really quickly at the moment and we’re seeing fewer than half the cases in this age group than we saw in little more than a week ago so in many ways we are past the point where vaccines are going to make much difference.”
Last September, Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, estimated that half of all children had been infected with coronavirus, a number that is now far higher after the recent omicron wave.
Prof Hunter said that it was now likely that many children have “probably had multiple Covids by now and so working out the risks” is not easy to do.
Experts from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are expected to give their decision on vaccinating healthy, young children in the UK this week, according to the BBC.
Across Europe and the US, 5-11-year-olds have been able to get vaccinated for some time, though that is not the case currently in Britain.
Prof Hunter said the primary reason to offer the vaccine to children was to prevent disruption to their schooling, but the evidence from vaccinating older children showed that the benefits were “marginal”.
“The only reason why they were given it was to hopefully protect them against disruption to schooling and we haven’t seen that vaccines have done a huge amount to stop those interruptions,” he said.
For younger children “it’s probably too late as most kids have already had omicron,” he added.