As children across England prepare to head back to classrooms next week, anxious parents are asking when youngsters will be inoculated against Covid-19 - if at all.
A trial was launched last month to determine the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab in children. Around 300 volunteers signed up to help researchers assess “whether the jab produces a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17”, as the BBC reported at the time.
Research leader Andrew Pollard, Andrew Pollard, a professor of paediatric infection at Oxford University, “said it was important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young people as some children might benefit from vaccination”, according to the broadcaster.
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However, a major question mark remains over whether the majority of under-18s need to be vaccinated against Covid.
A series of studies have found that children suffer from “less severe” illness if infected with the coronavirus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in early December that vaccines had not been extensively tested on children because “the likelihood of children having significant detriment if they catch Covid-19 is very, very low”.
BBC health correspondent Anna Collinson told children’s news show Newsround at the time that “people aged 50 and under are at the bottom of the list, and children currently will not be vaccinated because they are low risk”.
That verdict about the threat to kids was echoed by a study published in the BMJ in January. The authors wrote that the “low rates of severe disease and death” among children “would suggest that they should not be prioritised for vaccination during early vaccine deployment”.
But the researchers added that “specific paediatric risk groups may benefit from immunisation during the early vaccine deployment stage”, including children with issues impacting their lungs or with immunodeficiency illnesses.
The study also noted that adults with Down syndrome and cerebral palsy were more susceptible to severe illness, and that “while such data are currently limited in children”, the conditions might “also be associated with an increased risk of severe Covid-19” in youngsters.
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