Covid-19 vaccines to be offered to young children with medical conditions
Young children aged six months to four years suffering with medical conditions will be offered Covid-19 vaccinations following advice from the UK’s immunisation committee.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published new guidance on Thursday which said eligible children should be offered two doses of the vaccine, with an eight to 12 week interval between the first and second doses.
The JCVI is an independent expert advisory committee, which advises United Kingdom health departments about immunisation, making recommendations about vaccination schedules and vaccine safety.
The committee advised that while there is a high level of strong population immunity developed over the past two-and-a-half years, the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 continues to be disproportionately higher in people in older age groups, residents in care homes for older adults and people with certain underlying health conditions.
They warned there is uncertainty about whether or how the virus will evolve and change, how long immunity will last, and the epidemiology of infection.
On 6 December 2022, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six months to four years.
The JCVI reviewed data related to Covid-19 paediatric vaccine trials, safety surveillance of paediatric Covid-19 vaccines in the United States, and the epidemiology of Covid-19 in the UK in children aged six months to four years.
The immunisation committe has maintained that the focus should be on the potential benefits and harms of vaccination to children and young people themselves, with the prevention of severe Covid-19 (hospitalisations and deaths) in children and young people the primary aim.
Throughout the pandemic, studies have shown that children are much less likely to develop severe Covid-19 disease than older adults and for the vast majority of children, SARS-CoV-2 infection is associated with no, or mild, symptoms.
For a smaller proportion of children with pre-existing health conditions, the risk of severe illness is greater.
The committee found that the odds of admission to paediatric intensive care units with severe Covid-19 is more than seven times greater for infants and young children with underlying medical conditions compared to children without underlying medical conditions.
Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services said:”NHS Wales has been considering arrangements for vaccinating this group of children and further information will be made available to parents of eligible children to invite them to come forward for vaccination.
“Alongside my UK counterparts, I have accepted this advice and I am extremely grateful to the NHS and everyone involved in the vaccination programme for their continued hard work.”
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