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.