Children have been frustratingly “left behind” in the Covid-19 vaccine programme, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said. Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol, said the focus for trials has been on adults due to children not being seriously affected by the virus.
But he said he wants to “get on” and do the necessary trials in children.
While children are unlikely to fall ill with Covid-19, they do play a role in transmitting the virus.
Earlier this month, a trial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on children was paused while concerns around unusual blood clots are investigated.
The scientists involved said there were no safety concerns with the trial itself and they were waiting for further information from the MHRA.
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Pfizer said that trials of its Covid vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 showed 100% efficacy and a strong immune response.
Prof Finn told BBC Breakfast:
“I’m a paediatrician and in my normal life I spend my time doing vaccine trials in children.
“And children are very much prioritised for most vaccines, so it’s a very weird and unusual situation we’re in now because I and other colleagues have spent the last year doing vaccine trials in adults and mostly in older adults, because of the nature of the problems that Covid presents.
“So the children have really got very much left behind in this programme really because the children for the most part have not been affected by Covid in any serious way.
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“Very, very small numbers of children have been seriously affected, but we’re impatient now to get on and do the necessary trials in children so that these vaccines can start to be used, and actually circumstances are holding us back so it’s a very frustrating situation to be in.”
Prof Finn was asked if there is evidence that the Covid-19 vaccines are a risk to under-16s, and he said: “There is evidence for more or less all of the vaccines against Covid that the side-effect rate, the reactogenicity that we see, basically goes up the younger you are.”
Asked how we can ever know what the risk factor is when children are not being given the jabs, Prof Finn said:
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“Well the way we do that is to run trials in younger people, first of all teenagers and then younger children, to monitor very closely their immune responses, and the rates of side effects in order to provide MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) with the data that they would need in order to authorise the use of the vaccines in younger people.”
Prof Finn said preparations are under way to start more studies in children with Covid-19 vaccines.