All children aged 12 to 15-years-old are now being offered a single dose of the Pfizer jab
Image: Dinendra Haria/LNP)
Virtually all young people will get Covid-19 at some point if they aren’t vaccinated, England’s Chief Medical Officer has said.
Professor Chris Whitty told MPs that young people between 12 and 15-years-old are currently driving Covid transmission, with infection rates highest in this age group.
All children aged 12 to 15-years-old are now being offered a single dose of the Pfizer jab after the UK’s Chief Medical Officers backed the move.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had stopped short of recommending this on medical grounds alone, effectively handing the decision to the CMOs.
At a hearing of the Education Committee, Prof Whitty explained that the UK’s top medics decided to recommend mass vaccination of jabs for under-16s partly to prevent disruption in schools.
Prof Whitty said the comparison was between a child being vaccinated against a “near certainty that child will get Covid”.
He said fewer school days would be lost due to being vaccinated compared to children getting the virus, as pupils with Covid would be off school – and some will have significant symptoms.
Asked about modelling for days lost due to short-term disruption by Tory chairman Robert Halfon, Prof Whitty said: “Our view is firmly that people who have an infection are likely to be off school for longer than people who have a vaccine, on average.
“Therefore since virtually any child, unvaccinated, is likely to get an infection at some point between 12 and 15, that is the correct comparison, not against nothing.”
Children currently have the highest transmission rates of any age group, he said.
Prof Whitty told MPs: “There is definitely substantial transmission happening in this age group.
“In fact, the age group we’re talking about is the one in which the highest rate of transmission is currently occurring, as far as we can tell.”
But he said that “vaccination will reduce that risk.”
Asked what how many youngsters have already had Covid, Prof Whitty said: “It varies by age and it does also vary by setting, but I think if we go for roughly half I think that is a reasonable stab at this.
“That’s half over the period of the entire epidemic to date, and we’ve got quite a way to run.
“We’re running into winter so there’s still quite a lot of damage that could be done in terms of disruption.”
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told MPs that the Delta variant is so infectious it was not a “theoretical risk”.
He said: “I think it is really quite inevitable that they will be so at some point.”
Prof Van-Tam said it would be “extremely inconvenient to be laid low” with a cough, fever, and respiratory symptoms for pupils sitting GCSEs and A-Levels.
Pupils in England began being offered their Covid vaccine in schools this week.
The rollout is being managed by the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS), which already does inoculations for flu and HPV in schools.
Parents are being asked to give consent for their children to be vaccinated.
But children can overrule their parents if they are deemed competent to make the decision through a legal precedent known as a “Gillick competence”.