‘I wouldn't give my 9-year-old a Covid jab' says expert who found vaccinating 5-11 year olds reduces mortality

Vaccinating 5 to 11-year-olds would reduce Covid hospitalisations and mortality in the UK by 60 per cent, a scientific paper has found.

The study, which is at the pre-publication stage at the medical journal The Lancet, found strong evidence for extending Covid jabs in younger children.

It said that if Covid vaccines are extended to 5 to 11-year-olds Covid hospitalisations and deaths would decrease significantly.

Experts who wrote the report, which was funded by vaccine producer Moderna, found giving jabs to the younger age group would reduce Covid hospitalisations by 60 per cent, Covid deaths by 57 per cent and instances of long Covid by 75 per cent.

They also said vaccinating under 12s is expected to have “a greater population-wide benefit” than was observed in adolescents.

The report said: “Given the increased mixing patterns, difficulties in maintaining physical distance and poor adherence with face coverings, this approach has double the impact of vaccinating those over the age of 12 (73 per cent vs 26 per cent respectively).”

However, co-author Dr David Strain, the clinical lead for Covid services at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, has said he is not yet convinced by the data, and wouldn’t want his children to receive the jab yet.

He told i that the upcoming trial results from Pfizer and Moderna investigating the safety of vaccinating 5 to 11-year olds will be crucial as he fears the number of children reporting myocarditis, a rare heart inflammation, as a side effect could substantially increase.

Dr Strain said: “So we know the myocarditis rate is nearly twice as high in the 12 to 15 year olds as it is in the 20 to 25 year olds.

“But that still is a very, very small number, that is still only eight per million in the 12 to 15 year olds.

“But then, because it’s doubled on the 20s down to the 12s, if worst case scenario it doubles again past the fives that then does put children at a higher risk of actually getting problems than benefits.”

He added: “I wouldn’t be particularly keen to use my children as a shield, when we can get the same sorts of benefit from working from home and from masks.”

Dr Strain, a senior clinical lecturer in the college of medicine and health at the University of Exeter and was strongly in favour of 12 to 15-year-olds receiving the jab, has three children, aged four, nine and 12.

Dr Strain said while his 12-year-old will be receiving his first dose of the Covid vaccine next week, something the whole family was keen for, the expert would not want his nine-year-old to have the jab at the moment.

He added: “I wouldn’t be happy with my nine-year-old getting the vaccine until I’ve seen the results of the trials and see what may be impacted in practice as well.”

Pfizer-BioNTech has been carrying out a Covid-19 vaccine trial for children aged between five and 11-year-olds, which is said to have shown “positive results”.

On Monday afternoon, the two firms said the trials showed a “robust immune response” in the age group.

Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer said: “We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population, subject to regulatory authorisation, especially as we track the spread of the Delta variant and the substantial threat it poses to children.

“Since July, paediatric cases of Covid-19 have risen by about 240 per cent in the US – underscoring the public health need for vaccination.”

The trial involved 2,268 participants who were aged five to 11 and given two doses, each one administered 21 days apart. The dose was smaller than the one for people aged 12 and older.

Trials were carried out in the US, Finland, Poland and Spain across more than 90 sites.

The firms will now seek emergency authorisation for the vaccine to be administered to 5 to 11-year-olds in the US and could be approved for use by the end of October.

Pfizer-BioNtech will submit additional applications to the European and British authorities imminently.

Commenting on the results of the study, Dr Strain said: “I don’t think anyone had any doubt that the Covid vaccine would be effective at generating an immune response, and the comments about paediatric ITU having young Covid patients in it is very true – although it does remain rare.

“However the key safety parameters have not been mentioned here and actually for complications such as myocarditis in paediatric populations, that are probably as rare as one in 50,000, this study would not have picked up even the vaguest of signal.”

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