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U.K. to offer Pfizer COVID vaccine to children ages 5 to 11

February 16, 2022, 5:54 PM UTC

Children aged 5 to 11 in England will be offered COVID-19 vaccinations to widen protection for the population as the government moves to scrap remaining pandemic restrictions.

The National Health Service will make shots available to children across that age group starting in April, so “parents can, if they want, take up the offer to increase protection against potential future waves of COVID-19,” U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement Wednesday. 

Javid said most young children are generally at very low risk of serious illness from COVID and the priority remains for the NHS to provide vaccines and boosters to adults and vulnerable young people, and catch-up with other childhood immunization programs delayed by the pandemic. 

His decision follows official guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which said offering vaccines could help protect a very small minority of young children at risk of serious disease from the virus. The advisory panel said the shots would also offer short-term protection against mild infection across the wider age group. 

Under the new “non-urgent” guidance, young children will be given two doses of the shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE at least 12 weeks apart. Local governments in Scotland and Wales had already said they plan to offer shots to children in that age group. 

The government has been extending its vaccine program to increasing numbers of people as the country eases COVID rules two years into the pandemic and seeks to transition to a more manageable phase, despite the risks still posed by the virus.

In December, the panel cleared the Pfizer shot for use in vulnerable young children to boost coverage against the Omicron variant. That allowed at-risk children aged 5 to 11 years old to become eligible for two doses of the vaccine.

Javid said Wednesday’s decision followed a thorough review of the safety of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine by the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. 

—With assistance from Emily Ashton.

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