Article By: Jon Macpherson and Daniel Smith
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England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said JCVI officials are looking into whether youngsters could be given the vaccine before returning to school
Professor Chris Whitty says children may need to get a Covid-19 jab to save their education from further disruption caused by the pandemic.
England's Chief Medical Officer also suggested during Monday evening's Downing Street press briefing that officials are looking into whether youngsters could be given the vaccine before returning to school after the summer
But he added the priority at the moment is to give all adults a vaccine by July 19 so step four of the lockdown roadmap can be implemented.
Mr Whitty said officials from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation are looking into whether youngsters could be given the vaccine before returning to school following a year of Covid wreaking havoc in schools.
He said vaccines are now being licensed for use on children in some countries - and there are two reasons you may want to go down that route.
Firstly, there will be groups of children that are at high risk of Covid, he said.
The second reason is the wider question around the effect on children's education, and whether the multiple disruptions happening are going to have a negative impact on their physical and mental health in the long term.
Prof Whitty said: "“We have said several times before, the key thing with children is safety.
"We know that the risks in terms of physical disease to children – other than some children with significant pre-existing problems or physical health – are much much lower than for adults.
"So you wouldn't want to vaccinate unless the vaccine was very, very safe, and vaccines are now being licensed in some countries and we are accruing safety data on the safety of these vaccines in children.
"The first is those groups that are actually at high risk of Covid, and I think JCVI will be bringing forward advice on this, and those children specifically should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of them having severe disease and in a very small number of cases – but it does happen – mortality.
“But the wider question is around the effects on children’s education, and are the multiple disruptions that might happen going to have a negative impact on their life chances, including the effect it will have on long-term risk of physical and mental ill-health."
Mr Whitty's comments came after Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, called for all children to be fully vaccinated before going back to class in September.
He said that if the Government decides to go ahead with jabs for schoolchildren, the process should happen "as quickly as possible".
Ministers are awaiting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) before making a final decision.
Mr Courntey described the rising number of coronavirus in schools as a "big problem" which could cause disruption to education.
This morning, Sir Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said all adults aged 18 or over should be able to book their vaccine by the end of this week.