From Monday (April 4), five million children in England between the ages of five and 11 can get vaccinated against Covid. Previously, only children with underlying health conditions were offered the vaccine, but now it’s being offered to all young children.
Hundreds of sites will be offering vaccinations now, while others will join the programme later this week.
Dr Nikki Kanani, deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, said the vaccines still “remain the best defence” against coronavirus.
Who is eligible?
Anyone aged five to 11 will be eligible to take the vaccine. Young children who suffer from underlying health conditions or have weakened immune systems have already been offered to take the jab.
“Parents, if they want, can take up the offer for their children to increase protection against Covid as we learn to live with this virus,” health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said.
“Children without underlying health conditions are at low risk of serious illness from Covid-19 and the priority remains for the NHS to offer vaccines and boosters to adults and vulnerable young people, as well as to catch-up with other childhood immunisation programmes.”
Children will be offered of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, at a third of the normal strength, at least 12 weeks apart.
Why are children being vaccinated?
Although young children are likely to have mild Covid symptoms, this isn’t always the case and children can still be impacted by long Covid.
The vaccination programme is being extended to children after parents of young long Covid sufferers went to Downing Street asking the government for more support.
A Dorset-based charity Long Covid Kids (LCK) was established to offer help to families across the UK. Young ones who were helped by the charity sent a support guide and letters for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to read.
The UK’s vaccine advisers have said that the jabs will help “future-proof children’s defences” against infection.
“This vaccine promises to be very safe, it promises to be very effective,” Professor Steve Turner, from The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said. “We know this because other countries have been using it in their young children as well.”
How can your child access their jab?
Parents and guardians will be sent invitations for jabs from the NHS in the upcoming weeks. Most appointments will be available at community pharmacies and local vaccination centres and options for walk in vaccinations will also be offered.
You can book the jab for your child on the NHS vaccines website or by calling 119. NHS England said more appointments will be added throughout the week so anyone unable to get a convenient slot should keep trying.