Only 7% of primary school children in England have received a first dose of the Covid vaccine six weeks after it was rolled out every 5 to 11 years, as parents grapple with the decision of whether to accept the offer.
This rate compares to 24% of 12 to 15 year olds who had received a first dose within the first six weeks after becoming eligible in September 2021.
Scientists say the lower turnout among primary school children is due to the perception that Covid poses little risk to young children.
Some parents have expressed concern about the risk of rare side effects from the vaccine. But according to Professor Russell Viner of University College London, who was part of the now disbanded Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, they should be reassured by the virtual absence of side effects after widespread adoption in the United States. United, which approved the Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine last November.
“It’s a vaccination that’s probably not particularly beneficial for this age group,” Viner said. “However, it has a very, very good safety profile. And given that we remain in a pandemic, there is an argument that for individual parents the balance of risk would appear to be towards vaccination.
Viner said he was very concerned that children in vulnerable groups received the vaccine. “The benefits for the whole healthy population [of 5- to 11-year-olds] are particularly around reducing school disruption and preventing transmission to others,” he said. “However, for Omicron, the vaccines are quite poor in preventing onward transmission. So I think the benefits of vaccination for this age group are very marginal. But it’s different for those who are very clinically vulnerable. They are vulnerable to any respiratory virus and the Covid is more serious than the others. »
The area with the biggest uptake of vaccines for 5-11 year olds was Oxfordshire, at 12%, while Knowsley in Merseyside had the least, at 3%, according to the latest NHS vaccine data up to 8 may.
“All of the vaccination data shows very large inequities,” Viner said. “So it’s the children who are among the most clinically vulnerable groups and who belong to the most disadvantaged parts of the population that I would be most worried about.”
Dr Peter English, retired consultant in communicable disease control and former chairman of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said parents should be aware that a significant proportion of children subsequently develop long Covid. “Some will experience damage to their organs or immune systems that could leave them still ill months or years after infection.”
He said it was unclear whether vaccination would protect children against long Covid, although it could because vaccination reduces the risk of serious illness and therefore lowers rates of organ damage.
Emma Amoscato and her family discussed vaccinations for some time before moving forward with getting doses for her two children, aged 9 and 6.
“We had a conversation — ‘would we do it, wouldn’t we do it’ — when America started offering shots,” said Amoscato, who is the founder of mental health app Smile. “Is the risk to children so great, should we put something in their bodies?
“At the end of the day, it made sense to do it. We’re both triple vaccinated. My husband is clinically vulnerable. And it wasn’t the risk to life – it was the risk to the children of developing a long Covid and what it would mean for them, living with long-term chronic illness.
Chloe Haywood, a designer from Somerset, decided to have her three sons, aged 11, 8 and 5, vaccinated after the family fell ill with Covid. “They all had strokes when they were babies,” she said. “It was more about how quickly we could book them.”
Some parents had worried about the long-term risk of Covid before the last deployment, and had tried to have their children vaccinated abroad.
An NHS spokesperson said: “Getting vaccinated is a personal choice between families and their children, and we have now sent out invitations to everyone who is eligible, providing parents with information to enable them to make an informed decision. , while also being able to speak to their doctor or a local healthcare professional if they have any questions.
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