The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that clinically vulnerable children aged 6 months to 4 years should be offered a COVID-19 vaccine.
Although young children are generally at low risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, infants and young children who have underlying medical conditions are over seven times more likely to be admitted to Paediatric Intensive Care Units.
Over one million children aged 6 months to 4 years in the US have received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine since June 2022. Data from the US showed the most common side effects reported were similar to those seen with other vaccines given in this age group, such as irritability or crying, sleepiness, and fever.
In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) first authorised use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 6 months to 4 years on 6 December 2022.
Following that authorisation, the JCVI has advised that children aged 6 months to 4 years who are in a clinical risk group should be offered the vaccine. The JCVI does not currently advise COVID-19 vaccination of children aged 6 months to 4 years who are not in a clinical risk group.
Eligible children should be offered two doses of the vaccine, with an interval of 8 to 12 weeks between the first and second doses.
NHS England has confirmed it will begin offering vaccinations to those eligible in England from mid-June. Parents should wait to be contacted before coming forward.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of the JCVI’s COVID-19 Committee, said: “For the vast majority of infants and children, COVID-19 causes only mild symptoms, or sometimes no symptoms. However, for a small group of children with pre-existing health conditions it can lead to more serious illness, and for them, vaccination is the best way to increase their protection.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “COVID-19 is still in circulation, with thousands of new cases reported every week. The extra protection offered by the vaccine could be important for young children in clinical risk groups, who are at greater risk of severe illness. The virus is not going away so I would encourage all parents to bring their child forward if they are eligible. Parents should wait to be contacted by their local health professionals.”