The Sunday Telegraph

Vaccinate schoolchil­dren, urges top scientific adviser


A LEADING scientist advising the Government has said the vaccine rollout should be widened to include schoolchil­dren.

Peter Openshaw, professor of experiment­al medicine, Imperial College London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: “Originally, with the Wuhan strain, it did not seem there was much amplificat­ion of the epidemic going on amongst people who were at school, in contrast to what we know about influenza where schools are often a major driver of spread.

“But with more transmissi­ble variants, it is evident they are being transmitte­d much more amongst young adults and schoolchil­dren – and even younger children – and that seems perhaps to be down to a biological quality of the infection.

“It is still fortunatel­y not causing very high disease rates among those kids but it does strengthen the argument for extending vaccinatio­n [to children].

“I’ve been rather sitting over the fence on this one but, on balance, I am coming to the view that [for] vaccinatio­n of children, there is a very strong argument that we should go there.” He added: “New evidence has come out about the safety and efficacy in terms of generating an antibody response in children and it looks like it is pretty safe and there are no really adverse signals.”

Prof Openshaw is a member of Nervtag, which advises the Government on new and emerging respirator­y diseases.

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine was recently deemed safe for children by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and the decision from the Joint Committee for vaccinatio­ns and Immunisati­ons is pending.

Public Health England said the Indian variant is behind 149 outbreaks in schools.

More than 90 per cent of Covid cases are now of the Indian variant and the hardest hit age group is people aged between 10 and 19, according to PHE, which said schoolchil­dren account for 23.4 per cent of all cases, more than any other cohort of the population.

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