It is a situation that is undoubtedly being experienced in homes across the country. A primary school-age kid with a cold, then a high fever. A lateral flow test showing the two red lines. Just hours before, there had been a call from a teacher – another pupil had come down with confirmed Covid. For Fran Simpson, mother to Magnus, five, it all felt ‘pretty much inevitable’.

When schools returned in September, all Covid restrictions – mask-wearing, one-way systems and ‘bubbles’ that require children to isolate if someone else in the group tests positive – had been dropped.

Fran, a psychology lecturer from North Yorkshire, continues: ‘Every class has had at least five cases each over the past month or so, and it seems like many parents aren’t testing their kids any more. It feels like it’s getting worse by the week.’

Although she’s been double-jabbed, as is her partner, Fran says she’s nervous she’ll catch Covid too. ‘I’m paranoid, as I’ve had Covid once before and it made me really sick – and so has my other child Saskia, who is nine. And she’s not vaccinated.’

According to data from the Office For National Statistics, the current rate of Covid infected children aged 6-11 years old is twice that of the national average. The only age group more likely to contract the virus is 12-15-year-olds. However, teens are being given a jab while young children are not.

When asked at last week’s Downing Street press conference if there were any plans to vaccinate younger children, Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, indicated they were not, adding that children were less likely to transmit the virus.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, pictured during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street, London (file photo)

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, pictured during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street, London (file photo)

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Professor Adam Finn, paediatric expert at the University of Bristol and member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), confirmed this, saying: ‘Younger children do not tend to get sick from Covid, so this isn’t a priority because they won’t be burdening the health service.’

It’s a vastly different approach to the one taken by health chiefs in the US, who plan to begin rolling out the Pfizer vaccine to primary school-aged children by the end of this month. This proposal was made immediately after Pfizer data showed that a third of the dose given for adults is safe for children under the age of three and triggers an immune response. No side effects of any serious nature were reported.

Previous studies have shown that the jab prevents the spread of the virus in at minimum a third cases. Now, with warnings that Britain’s daily case numbers could soon top 100,000, there are calls from some of the UK’s scientists for us to follow suit. 

Writing in The Lancet medical journal last month, a group of Britain’s top Covid experts argued that such a strategy would be ‘twice as effective at reducing the spread of the virus as vaccinating adolescents’. Their calculations showed that vaccination of children aged five to eleven years old could reduce the number of Covid hospitalisations by 60% and reduce the number of cases with long Covid by three quarters.

Dr Peter English, a public health expert and past chairman of the British Medical Association Public Health Medicine Committee, describes vaccinating young children as ‘crucial’ for curbing the scale of the UK’s epidemic.

‘As cases continue to rapidly rise, more and more children will bring the virus home to their parents or grandparents, who are more likely to get severely sick and need hospital assistance,’ he says. Professor Penny Ward, a pharmaceutical expert at King’s College London, says: ‘If we want to shut off the circulation of this virus we need to reduce the number of people who can catch it. 

Potent argument: Experts believe that vaccinating five to 11-year-olds would be twice as effective at reducing the spread of the virus as giving the jab to adolescents

Experts offer a compelling argument: Vaccinating children between five and eleven years olds would reduce the spread of the virus by twice the effectiveness of giving the jab to adolescents.


According to a school survey of 27,000 nine-year-olds, 36% would consent to a Covid jab.

‘That means vaccinating everyone, including younger children.’ 

Last Thursday, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose suggestion last year to extend the gap between vaccine doses from three weeks to three months proved a success, released a report that called for vaccinating under-12s ‘to be made a priority’.

So why aren’t Government scientists following this advice?

Covid poses little risk to the average primary school student, which is part of the reason why Covid is so popular. Most will not experience any symptoms.

The vaccine’s benefits are negligible when viewed in this manner, as the JCVI did.

Professor Finn and others argue that the risk of younger children getting the virus may be greater than the risk to them contracting it. They cite increasing reports of young adults suffering from heart inflammation. Myocarditis can cause chest pain, breathing difficulties, and a pounding (or fluttering) heartbeat.

Around the world, several hundred cases of the vaccine have been reported. Most of these cases were in men aged 16-24 years old. As a precaution, the UK Government offers children 12-17 years old just one dose.

‘Myocarditis appears to be very rare and people seem to recover quite quickly,’ says Prof Finn. ‘But we don’t know if, down the line, people affected might develop further heart problems as a result. Covid is more dangerous in older people. The benefit of being vaccinated outweighs the chance of an uncommon side effect. But in younger children, the chances of them getting severely ill with Covid are just as low as the risk of developing myocarditis.’ 

Previous studies show the jab stops people passing on the virus in at least a third of cases. Now, with warnings that Britain’s daily case numbers could soon top 100,000, there are calls from some of the UK’s scientists for us to follow the US's suit (file photo)

Studies have shown that the jab prevents people from contracting the virus in at most a third of cases. Now, with warnings that Britain’s daily case numbers could soon top 100,000, there are calls from some of the UK’s scientists for us to follow the US’s suit (file photo)

Covid Q&A: Will vaccines stop the spread or is natural immunity as good as a jab?

Q: What is the likelihood of you spreading Covid if your body has been fully vaccinated?

A: Double jabbed people are less likely to contract Covid and infect others. This has been proven by numerous studies.

Microbiologist Christopher Byron Brooke at the University of Illinois said last week: ‘[Vaccines]Transmission can be reduced. Vaccinated people do transmit the virus in some cases, but the data are super crystal-clear that the risk of transmission for a vaccinated individual is much, much lower.’

A Dutch study has shown that those infected by the Delta variant Covid virus are 63% less likely than unvaccinated household members to infect them. This finding led researchers to believe that vaccines could reduce transmission by over 80 percent.

Yale University researchers looked at data from Israel, and came to the same conclusion: 99% of vaccines against transmission were effective.

Earlier studies suggested that vaccinated people might carry ‘as much virus’ as people who are unvaccinated, but the methods used in this research have since been called into question.

Q: How about natural immunity – isn’t that just as good as a jab?

A: All immunity is ‘natural’, whether it comes from catching Covid or being vaccinated against it.

Both events trigger the body’s immune system to react and create cells that are able to recognise and fight off the virus, should it come into contact with it again. However, vaccinations are more effective at protecting people from infection than immunity derived through vaccination.

A Danish study found that over-65s only had 47% protection six months after contracting Covid. This is an older study and reinfection with the Delta variant is more likely.

New data suggests that unvaccinated people should expect to be reinfected with Covid-19 approximately every 16 months. However for those older than this, it could be more frequently. Scientists have suggested that reinfections in those without vaccination could occur within three months.

Other scientists disagree. Firstly, the clinical trials on under 12s completed so far have found no cases of myocarditis – and Dr Ward says studies show the risk ‘diminishes’ under the age of 16.

Dr English says: ‘The risk of getting myocarditis from Covid is far greater than the risk of getting it after vaccination.’

Experts say the Government’s scientific advisers are also relying on ‘outdated’ evidence about the benefits of vaccination in terms of slowing spread of the virus into the wider community.

Early on in the pandemic, the prevailing view among scientists – based on Chinese studies – was that few young children caught Covid, and even fewer passed it on. The Delta variant has dramatically changed the picture.

Dr David Strain, Covid expert at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, says the appearance of this highly contagious mutation has turned children into ‘viral reservoirs’.

He says: ‘We are starting to see a pattern that suggests the virus is spreading from schools into the community. In the hospital, we are seeing more and more cases of parents and grandparents coming in who have been isolating from the world, and the only social contact they have had is young family members.’

It’s not the first time the JCVI has ignored the community-wide benefit of jabbing young people. It came to a similar conclusion with children aged 12 to 15, advising that the ‘margin of benefit’ for vaccinating adolescents was ‘too small’ for it to support the rollout.

This decision was later overruled by Prof Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, on the basis that vaccinated teens would be less likely to catch Covid and then have to isolate, and this would benefit their mental health, education and social development.

Dr English says: ‘The JCVI has insisted on not looking at the risk of children passing the virus to parents, or the risk of long Covid. This isn’t a typical approach to vaccines. We offer young children a flu jab not to protect themselves, but to protect vulnerable adults around them who they could pass it on to.’

Last week’s University of Cambridge data provided one possible argument against jabbing children. Three quarters of children aged between five and 14 years old have had Covid, so they will be somewhat protected. Prof Finn said: ‘It’s possible that so many children will end up infected that cases will begin to go down because of the wall of immunity built up.’

Professor Ward said that there isn’t enough data to prove that natural infection immunity can be as strong or long-lasting as vaccines. ‘We aren’t yet sure how robust natural immunity is – so it makes sense to top it up with a vaccine just in case.’

Dr Finn indicated that it was likely that JCVI would adopt a similar approach when approving vaccines for pregnant women. They would wait for real-world data in the US before making a determination.

‘You have to go a bit carefully with this kind of call,’ he says.

But other scientists say this has the potential to backfire – as it did in pregnant women. They were among those most reluctant to get the vaccine. This could be due to mixed Government messages regarding how safe it was for them. After data on 130,000 US-vaccinated women was published, UK vaccine chiefs withheld their approval. This resulted in continued hesitancy. Unvaccinated pregnant women account for a fifth of the most seriously ill Covid patients admitted to hospitals in England since July.

Parents may be similarly hesitant and read the JCVI’s caution as a sign that there’s something to worry about. Simon Jones, 41-year-old father to Dylan, ten and Rory, eight seems to believe so. Rory, who recently returned from school with a cold, tested positive for Covid. All members of the family have tested negative so far.

They feel very cautious. ‘You hear about inaccurate results. We don’t want to be the ones who give Covid to everyone else, so we’re isolating,’ says Simon. 

Currently, a fifth of the most critically ill Covid patients in hospitals in England since July are unvaccinated pregnant women (file photo)

Unvaccinated pregnant women make up a fifth of the most seriously ill Covid patients admitted to hospitals in England since July. (file photo).


Canada and the USA are expected to approve vaccines for children under 12 years old soon, while China and the United Arab Emirates have already approved them.

Would he consider having the boys vaccinated if this would prevent situations like these? ‘No,’ is the instant response from the advertising sales executive, who lives with his partner in East London. ‘Well, I just don’t know about it – you hear about the risks. I’d need to know more before I said yes.’

A June survey found that a third of parents with children aged six-12 said they would not get their child vaccinated if there was a jab. Parents who indicated that they were not likely to vaccinate children expressed concern about the long-term effects.

One in five children said they would wait to see if the vaccines worked on other children.

Teenagers are not getting their vaccines. Only 17% have submitted for their jab among children aged 12-15. Experts say some of this is due to hesitancy among parents, which may have been avoided had it not been for ‘mixed messaging’ about safety.

Prof Iain Buchan, public health expert at the University of Liverpool, said the situation has been worsened by the ‘pandemic of misinformation’ online.

Prof Buchan, who has helped co-ordinate the rollout of vaccines in Liverpool schools, said: ‘We’re seeing rising numbers of anti-vax protesters outside schools and death threats sent to vaccinators. This could in part be responsible for the lumpy take-up in some parts of the country.’

Dr Strain said that despite the Lancet study showing the clear benefits of vaccinations for five- to eleven-year-olds (and authoring it), he understood why parents might be hesitant. ‘Yes, the vaccines are proven to be safe, but I have young children and would like to see some more data before I get them vaccinated.’

Fran Simpson, however, says she would ‘go for it immediately’ if Magnus was offered a jab.

‘If there’s anything we can do the bring down the number of infections in schools, we should do it,’ she says.

Fran believes that it is important to vaccinate all children to prevent long Covid. This is after Saskia was diagnosed with the condition last year. She suffered from severe fatigue for several months and breathing difficulties, and still has occasional flare-ups. Fran was inspired to found Long Covid Kids, a charity that supports families.

She says: ‘You hear people say the risk to children is small, but I’ve seen first-hand the impact this disease can have on them.’