Britain’s Covid vaccine rollout should be extended to primary school children to defend against the incoming Omicron wave, a senior SAGE scientist said today.

Professor John Edwards of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was an epidemiologist and called for vaccinations of children aged five- to eleven years old ‘as quickly as possible. 

Britain’s recent surge in cases — which had seen daily infections rise week-on-week for eight days before falling slightly today — is now being driven by children.

According to ZOE data, the number of cases in children under 18 years old has been higher than in older adults since November. More than 32,000 were recorded last week, compared with less than 2000 in those over 75s. 

Today, the Royal Society of Medicine speaker said that there have been a lot of medical cases in recent months. He also spoke out about high hospitalisations, as well as 100-150 deaths per day. 

Although I don’t believe all that was driven by children is true, many of those things have been.

“So from a population perspective it is pretty evident that we must vaccinate both our children and everyone else.

After a series of infected children in South Africa, experts worry that this super mutant version could be more readily spread to other children.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is currently’moving fast’ in order to approve vaccines within the age group. An expected decision comes next week.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, (JCVI), a member stated, “Won’t stay around” in recommending that No10 start dispensing them throughout the country. 

Many scientists still have concerns about vaccinating young children due to the low level of risk.

Their concerns are amplified due to the slight risk of myocarditis — an ultrarare form of heart inflammation spotted in some young people after they are jabbed.

Children as young as five should be given Covid vaccines to fight off the Omicron variant in Britain, according to SAGE member Professor John Edwards

Children as young as five should be given Covid vaccines to fight off the Omicron variant in Britain, according to SAGE member Professor John Edwards

Fears over a very rare heart condition side effect — called myocarditis — led No10's vaccine advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), to opt against routinely jabbing healthy 12 to 15-year-olds, who face a tiny risk of getting seriously ill from the virus. It said the risk of healthy children being admitted to ICU from Covid was two in a million, rising to 100 per million among those with underlying conditions. Meanwhile, there would be three to 17 cases of myocarditis for every first dose dished out and 21 to 42 cases following each second dose given to under-16s

Fears over a very rare heart condition side effect — called myocarditis — led No10’s vaccine advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), to opt against routinely jabbing healthy 12 to 15-year-olds, who face a tiny risk of getting seriously ill from the virus. The risk that healthy children would be admitted to ICU by Covid was 2 in 1 million. This number could rise to 100 for those suffering from underlying diseases. Three to 17 cases would occur for every dose of Covid, and between 21 and 42 cases after each subsequent dose to children under 16 years old.

The JCVI — which advises Government on vaccine policy — was reluctant to recommend jabs in over-12s previously, waiting weeks after the MHRA approved them in the age group before recommending they were rolled out. 

EU approves Pfizer’s Covid vaccine in five- to eleven-year-olds 

After the approval of the EU’s drug regulator, the vaccine will be administered to children as young as 5 years old in Europe. 

This move seems to be in direct response to fourth wave that swept across continent, sending countries back to draconian lockdowns. 

This is the first time that the European Medicines Agency approved a Covid vaccine to be used in children under 11. Britain’s vaccine distribution will not be affected by this move. To receive shots in the UK, children must have at least 12 years of age.

According to the agency, it “recommended” extending Covid’s indication to children aged between 5 and 11 years old. 

Authorities in Austria — which is currently in lockdown and has the worst case rate in Europe — already began jabbing children in the age group before the EMA approval. 

Pfizer’s children-sized shots were approved by the United States earlier in November. Canada followed suit.

Russell Viner (UCL), a professor in child and adolescent medicine, said that this was welcome news because it gives children aged 5-11 years the opportunity to get vaccinated in Europe against Covid. 

“Following FDA’s decision in USA, and now the EMA in Europe, it seems unlikely that our MHRA would not issue a comparable license for the UK.

The US and Australia have licensed jabs to all over-fives, while the EU has not yet approved Jabs for children under 12. 

Ireland yesterday announced that it will move forward with the plan in the coming days’.

Professor Edmunds was asked if the five-year-olds should have access to the vaccine. If the vaccine has been licensed, then I see no reason it should not be used.

“It is licensed for children in Europe, but I believe it’s also available in North America. It’s an epidemiologically sound decision.

“Overall, if the MHRA licenses it, I believe that the risks to the benefit ratio is worthwhile. We should then introduce it as quickly as possible.” 

Pfizer’s five-to-11 year-old vaccine is likely to be approved by the MHRA at this time. 

Ministers will prioritize Omicron booster rolls, which are unlikely to occur before the new year.

The JCVI is the only authority to recommend the jabs. However, it seems that they are keen to get vaccines in young children as soon as possible.

A member from JCVI stated to The Independent, “I think public opinion is shifting regarding vaccination of younger kids which could broaden our discussions.”

With the JCVI holding back, the US and Israel were the two first nations to start vaccinating 12-15-year-olds.  

After noticing that myocarditis was more common in children aged 12-15 years in Britain than elsewhere, the JCVI recommended jabs.

According to them, the 12-week gap between vaccinations in Britain and other countries helped maintain low numbers. However, second jabs were given at a slightly higher rate than those that had received their first shots after an average of three-to-4 weeks.

Experts believe that myocarditis risk is also lower for younger children than it is in adolescents. 

Pfizer’s vaccine prevents two admissions to intensive care per million for healthy children, and one per million for those suffering from chronic diseases.

Even though Covid is usually mild in children, experts say that immunizing them to prevent the virus from spreading to more people could lead to more severe symptoms.

Researchers disagree over the degree to which the spread of the pandemic has been influenced by children. 

Research suggests that early research did not show that viral spread was affected by them. 

Experts believe children had a major role in the spreading of Alpha and Delta variations this year.

There is evidence that Omicron could also be transmissible to children in South Africa, according to emerging evidence.

South African officials warned higher hospital admissions among children during the fourth wave of infections in the country should prompt vigilance but not panic, will infections so far being mild.

Pfizer's own study suggested unjabbed 12 to 15-year-olds are just three per cent more likely to catch Covid compared to fully vaccinated children earlier this week

Pfizer found that children aged 12-15 who were not vaccinated earlier this week are three times more likely than those with full vaccinations to get Covid. 

The large number infants who were admitted to Tshwane’s metropolitan area, including Pretoria’s capital, with Covid in their last month raised concern that Omicron might pose more risk for small children than other coronavirus varieties.

Researchers have not been able to prove a link, but they have warned that there could be other contributing factors.

Ntsakisi Maluleke is a Gauteng ground zero public health specialist. He said that of 1,511 Covid positive patients admitted to hospitals, 113 of them were younger than nine years, which was a higher percentage than in previous wave of infections. 

She said, “We are consoled by the reports of clinicians that the children have mild diseases.”

Scientists and doctors are looking into the causes of the higher admissions for younger patients. She stated that they hope to get more insight in the next two week.

Officials don’t know the variants of infected children who were admitted to hospitals because only a few South Africans have positive Covid test results.

Maluleke stated that some healthcare workers may be too cautious. “They’d rather have their child taken care of for a couple days, than having their child at home, complicating things, but they really should wait to see the evidence,” she stated.

How are Covid vaccines being administered in other countries? 

At the beginning of November, Pfizer vaccines were being offered in the United States to children aged five through eleven years old.

On November 2, a panel of experts outside the US met to discuss the recommendation for the shot in this age group. 

On November 29, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine in this age group.

However, many areas of the world are still waiting for vaccines. The World Health Organisation has called on countries and businesses that have global control of the vaccine supply to prioritise COVAX.

Here is a listing of countries which have approved vaccinations for their children or are looking into it:


  • Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid vaccinations were approved by the EU’s medicines regulator on November 25.
  • Denmark stated in June it would give Covid shots to 12-15-year-olds to improve their immunity.
  • France started to vaccinate children as young as 12 years old, with parental consent.
  • Germany has agreed that vaccination will be available for all children between 12 and 17 years of age in August.
  • Austria started to vaccinate children between 12 and 15 years old.
  • Estonia might begin vaccination teenagers in the autumn, according to ERR public broadcaster, ERR, and citing the head the Covid council of government officials.
  • According to Xinhua, Hungary began vaccinating 16-18-year-olds mid-May.
  • Italy approved the extension of Pfizer’s vaccine use to 12-15-year-olds on May 31. It also approved the Moderna vaccine for children aged 12-17 years old on July 28.
  • According to Delfi, Lithuania’s Prime Minister said that the country would begin vaccinating its children as soon as June 12th.
  • The health minister stated that Spain began vaccinating children aged 12-17 years in Spain two weeks prior to September’s academic year.
  • Swedish PM states that children 12-15 years of age will receive Covid vaccine in the autumn.
  • In July, Greece announced that children between 12 and 15 could receive Covid vaccines with Moderna or BioNTech shots from Pfizer/BioNTech.
  • Helsinki, Finland’s capital said in June it will start giving Covid vaccines for children between 12 and 15 years who are susceptible to severe coronavirus disease.
  • Ireland has lowered the Covid vaccination age to 12 year olds on July 27, 2012.
  • Poland began offering Covid vaccinations for children aged 12-15 years.


  • UK has announced on October 19 that they will offer COVID vaccine booking services to children 12 to 15.
  • Switzerland approved the vaccination of 12-15-year-olds using Pfizer’s shot. Moderna’s shot was approved for this age group in August.
  • Norway began offering one dose of BioNTech Covid and Pfizer vaccines to 12-15-year-olds in September.


  • Israel started offering Covid boosters to children from 12 years old in August.
  • According to the United Arab Emirates, China’s Sinopharm vaccination was introduced to all children between three and 17. The UAE has approved Pfizer BioNtech shots for children five through 11 years old for emergency use on November 1.
  • From October 27th, the Chinese government approved in Bahrain the Sinopharm Covid vaccine. The Gulf state then approved on November 2 the Pfizer vaccine to be used as an emergency for children aged five through eleven years.


  • China has approved its Sinovac vaccine to be used for children six years old and over in Indonesia, effective November 1.
  • Malaysia announced on 29 October that it will purchase the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination for children five- to 11 years old, following recommendation by an American expert panel
  • Vietnam will inoculate children 16-17 years old with parental consent beginning next month, using the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
  • The Indian regulator was advised by an advisory panel to recommend emergency use of Bharat Biotech’s Covid shot for children aged between two and 18. It is still awaiting the regulator’s approval.
  • In June, New Zealand’s Medicines Regulator approved the use of Pfizer’s vaccine for 12-15-year-olds.
  • Australia announced on September 12, that it would expand its COVID-19 vaccination program to cover around one million children between 12 and 15.
  • China has approved an emergency use for Sinovac’s vaccine in China, June 5, 2017. It is available to those aged between 3 and 17.
  • Hong Kong announced on June 3, that it will open up its vaccine program to all children under the age 12.
  • Singapore’s vaccination program was opened to all adolescents 12-18 years old starting June 1.
  • Japan approved Pfizer’s vaccine to be used for children 12 years and older on May 28.
  • The Philippines voted to approve the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for emergencies in children aged 12 to 15 on May 26th.
  • In July, Jordan began vaccinating 12 year-olds against Covid.


  • Mexico’s only use of the Covid vaccine from Pfizer BioNTech for children at high risk will be in Mexico.
  • Brazil has approved Pfizer’s vaccine to protect children older than 12.
  • Chile has approved Covid, a vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. It is now available for children aged 6 and older.
  • The US FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine to be used for children between five and 11 years old. Before the vaccine can be rolled-out, Rochelle Walensky, Director of CDC must submit her suggestions.
  • Canada has approved Pfizer’s vaccine to be used in children 12-15, however the final decision on children 5-11 years of age is likely not to happen before November.
  • Cuba has a vaccination program that includes infants as young as 2 years old.
  • El Salvador granted permission to use COVID-19 in 6- and 11-year old children on September 13th. 
  • Children as young as 3 years old in Argentina are being vaccinated with the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • The China Sinovac vaccine is available to children as young six years old in Ecuador.
  • Columbia is offering Pfizer, AstraZenenca, Moderna, Sinopharm and J&J’s Covid vaccines for children 12 years and above.
  • Costa Rica offers vaccinations for 12 years or more.


  • South Africa will begin to vaccinate children aged 12-17 next week with the Pfizer vaccine.

Reporting from Reuters