Government adviser admits Covid vaccine would NOT have been recommended for use on children in normal times until it had been fully investigated after schools rollout was given go-ahead
- Parents are justified waiting six months for more research on jab-related risks
- Current research warns of potential heart inflammation, scarring from vaccine
- Comes as children aged 12-15 will be offered the jab in schools from next week
A government advisor had admitted the Covid-19 vaccine would not have been recommended for children in normal times until it had been fully investigated.
Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said scientists did not have the ‘luxury’ of time to research the possible risks of jabbing children and would usually have collected more evidence before recommending their use on teens.
It comes after the school rollout of jabs for children aged 12 to 15 was given the go ahead last week, with the vaccinations set to start on Wednesday.
But Finn said parents were justified in waiting an extra three to six months to get their children jabbed until the risks were made clearer with further research, the Times reported.
Finn added today the decision on whether to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds is not black and white, adding that while it is not ‘essential’ for them to have a coronavirus jab, it is also ‘perfectly sensible’ for them to do so.
Children should be warned about the tiny risk of life-threatening heart problems before they are given the Covid-19 jab, experts have insisted
The JCVI looked at the risk of health inflammation – known as myocarditis – in young people given the Pfizer vaccine, which was still very small but slightly more common after a second dose
He told Times Radio: ‘It’s a finely balanced decision. It’s not a black and white decision. It’s not essential that these children receive the vaccine, but equally it’s a perfectly sensible thing to do.
‘It’s being offered because the benefits do outweigh the risks, and it’s available for people who want it. And I’m afraid that’s the truth of the situation.’
He said the reason the process for deciding whether to vaccinate the age group has been ‘convoluted and complex’ is because there ‘isn’t a completely clear, straightforward answer’.
But he added that people should not become too ‘agonised’ about it, adding: ‘Because the risks on either side are not that high. It’s not like these children are at great risk from Covid, or indeed that they’re at great risk from the vaccination.’
He also called on the NHS to spell out the potential long-term consequences of the jab for children, warning vaccinating children without properly discussing the potential risks could undermine future take up and fuel anti-vaxx scepticism.
Around one in 100,000 children suffer heart inflammation and scarring after the jab, putting them at higher risk of arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest, current research suggests.
Vaccines are usually tested rigorously before they are rolled out to the general population, but the Covid-19 jab was developed at such speed the research for possible risks for children is still catching up.
Parents are therefore justified in waiting three to six months for more evidence on the possible long-term effects before getting their children vaccinated, Finn said, describing delaying the decision as ‘perfectly legitimate’.
Finn and Guido Pieles, a consultant cardiologist who advised the JCVI, added they actually suggest parents wait for more research to be conducted.
People should be tolerant of parents who have their children vaccinated against Covid-19, and of those who decide not to, Finn added.
He aid he is concerned some parents and children could be stigmatised according to what they decide when it comes to coronavirus vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds.
He told Times Radio: ‘I absolutely do fear that… I’ve had a lot of people contact me with very strong views.
‘Either that they insist that they wish their children to be immunised without delay, or that they would rather die than have their children immunised, so there are plenty of people out there with very strong views, and those could easily translate into quite aggressive attitudes, one way, in one direction or the other.
‘I think people should be tolerant of each other. Parents who have their children immunised should be tolerant of those that decide not to and vice versa because the stakes are not high on either side.’
Public Health England today published of a guide (pictured) to Covid-19 vaccination for children and young people
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has insisted the vaccine is safe for children, saying the decision to offer the jab to 12 to 15-year-olds had followed advice from the JCVI.
The scientific community had been split over vaccinating healthy children against Covid because the virus poses such a low risk to them.
No10’s own advisory panel said earlier this month that immunising healthy under-16s would only provide ‘marginal’ benefit to their health, and not enough to recommend a mass rollout.
The decision was left with Professor Whitty and chief medical officers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who looked at the wider benefits to society, including keeping classrooms open.
The decision to offer teens the jabs was ‘unanimously approved’ by the UK’s four chief medical officers earlier this week.
The chief medical officers said that even though Covid poses a small risk to children’s health, the negative impacts of school closures on their life prospects and mental wellbeing tipped the balance in favour of vaccination.
Modelling of the winter term estimated that without the vaccines there could be about 89,000 infections among 12 to 15-year-olds, compared to 59,000 with the rollout.
Without vaccination they warn of 320,000 school absences by March, whereas this could be reduced to 220,000 with the jabs.
They have recommended under-16s initially only be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which has shown to be up to 55 per cent effective at preventing infection from the Delta variant.
A decision on second doses is still to be determined when more data is available internationally, with a decision expected by the spring term at the earliest.
Officials will weigh up the risk of heart complications, which are slightly more common after the second shot.
The JCVI has already recommended that children and young people aged 12 to 17 with specific underlying health conditions, and children and young people who are aged 12 years and over who are household contacts of people who are immunocompromised are offered two doses of a vaccine.
Under-16s in the US, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, and the Netherlands, have already been offered jabs.
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