We might need to vaccinate children, says covid programme scientist

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No decision has been made yet on rolling out the Covid-19 coronavirus jab to children, one of the leaders of the vaccination programme has said.

But Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that is “certainly something that we might need to do”.

He told Good Morning Britain: “As far as I know there has been no decision made to immunise children starting in August, or indeed any decision been taken to immunise children at all at this point.

“But it’s certainly something that we might need to do.”

Referring to a clinical trial on the use of the Oxford vaccine in children, he added: “That’s why we’re doing the study and we will be doing more studies of the other vaccines in children over the coming weeks.

“In order to establish that vaccines can safely be used in children, we need to do that.”

“We’ll need to do more than one study,” he told Good Morning Britain.

“If it does turn out to be necessary to immunise children, I think it is more likely that we would prioritise teenagers over younger children, simply because the evidence we have at the moment is that transmission of the virus is more likely to occur from and between teenagers who are a little bit more like adults.

“I think what we need to learn before that, what proportion of the population we need to immunise in order to get effective herd immunity and to suppress circulation of the virus .

“In order to do that we need to have a clear understanding of how efficiently the vaccines actually interrupt infection and transmission and that evidence is still on its way at the moment.”

Referring to the aim to have the adult population vaccinated before the end of July, Prof Finn added: “During that time we will see what goes on with variants, with the circulation of the virus, and then we’ll be able to make a decision whether children need to be immunised – we clearly won’t want to do that unless it’s necessary.

“But if it is necessary we will by then know whether the vaccines are entirely safe and effective and we’re giving the right dose and so on, so that we go forward with that later in the year.”

It comes as vaccine manufacture Sinovac said its Covid-19 jab is safe in children aged three to 17, based on preliminary data.

The company said it has submitted the data to Chinese drug regulators.

More than 70 million shots of Sinovac’s vaccine have been given worldwide, including in China.

China has approved its use in adults but it has not yet been used in children, because their immune systems may respond differently to the vaccine.

Early and mid-stage clinical trials with more than 550 subjects showed the vaccine would induce an immune response, said Gang Zeng, the medical director at Sinovac.

Two recipients developed high fevers in response to the vaccine, one a three-year-old and the other a six-year-old. The rest of the trial subjects experienced mild symptoms, Mr Zeng said.

“Showing that the vaccine is safe and would elicit a potentially useful immune response against SARS-CoV-2 is very welcome,” said Eng Eong Ooi, a professor at the Duke NUS Medical school in Singapore who is co-leading the development of a separate Covid-19 vaccine.

However, he said the data presented publicly by the company was not enough to give a conclusive answer on the findings.

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