Major change to Covid vaccines programme as new group offered jabs

BABIES and toddlers with serious health conditions will be eligible for a Covid vaccine for the first time in the UK.

Around 60,000 high-risk children aged between six months and four years old will be able to get two small doses of the jab from June.

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Medics say children with health conditions that raise their Covid risk could benefit from jabs[/caption]

This is to cut the risk of them ending up in hospital or intensive care with the bug.

Medics in the USA approved vaccination for the youngest children last year.

Data show the Pfizer vaccine is around 73 per cent effective in this age group.

Since the start of the pandemic, 51 under-fives have died with Covid in England, according to official figures.

More than nine in 10 catch the virus at least once before their fifth birthday.

Healthy children have such a low risk of severe disease that they will not be eligible for a vaccine because it would not benefit them.

Adults without serious health issues are also no longer eligible for jabs – but spring boosters began this week for the most vulnerable.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation ruled on the children’s change today, Thursday April 6.

JCVI experts have used two-and-a-half years’ worth of data to make their decision, since the first adults were vaccinated in December 2020.

They said more than a million doses have been given to tots in the USA and the rollout raised “no new or unexpected concerns”.

Dr Mary Ramsay, vaccines chief at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “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.”

Conditions that could put children at risk include Down’s syndrome, cancer, cerebral palsy or long-term brain, heart, lung or liver diseases.

Parents will be contacted by the NHS starting in June.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Children are at very low risk of harm from Covid.

“However, there are a very small number of children with health conditions which make them particularly vulnerable.

“It is a parental decision, and this advice is simply to enable parents of children with medical conditions to choose if they wish to have the protection.”