UK ‘standing ready’ to vaccinate five to 11-year-olds against Covid

The Novavax Covid vaccine, which may be just days away from approval in the UK, could be safer for children than the UK’s current jabs, experts say. 

It is hoped that the US shot — which uses tried and true vaccine technology and is manufactured in Teeside — could reduce hesitancy and boost uptake in children. 

The UK Government already has 60million doses of Novavax on order and trials show it is 96 per cent effective in adults.

But crucially it was shown to cause less side effects compared to those triggered by Pfizer, Moderna or even AstraZeneca‘s vaccines. 

The vaccine, known scientifically as NVX-CoV2373, would be the first protein-based jab approved in the UK, if given the green light.

Protein-based jabs are already given to children to protect against the flu, meningitis and hepatitis. 

Novavax’s injection, officially known as NVX-CoV2373, would be the first protein-based jab approved in the UK, if given the green light. Protein-based jabs are already given to children to protect against the flu, meningitis and hepatitis

Experts told MailOnline approval of the vaccine could pave the way for the jab being rolled out to children, as well as encouraging the vaccine-hesitant to come forward.  

Final study data was submitted to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last month and approval is expected in days.   

Other injections against Covid already approved in the UK are either viral vector vaccines that are made from a common cold virus (AstraZeneca), or an mRNA vaccine made from enzymes (Pfizer and Moderna).

Novavax’s contains proteins that mimic the spikes on the coronavirus, causing the body to produce antibodies to fight the infection.

If the body encounters coronavirus in the future, the body is primed to fend it off.

The injection is administered in two doses 21 days apart. Unlike the other jabs that need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, Novavax can be kept in a normal fridge for up to three months. 

And phase three by Maryland-based Novavax of more than 15,000 people in the UK found the jab had an efficacy rate of 96.4 against mild, moderate and severe disease caused by the original coronavirus strain. 

Meanwhile, a trial of the vaccine on 30,000 people in the US and Mexico found it gave 100 per cent protection against moderate and severe disease.  

Protein vaccines already in use include the hepatitis B and meningitis jabs, which are routinely given to newborns.

The vaccines currently used in the UK have saved thousands of lives, while health chiefs said the rollout to children will help keep them in school classrooms.

More than 1million pupils were forced to miss school in a single week in England in July due to the virus.

But one in 10 over-18s in England are yet to have their first dose by November 18.

And uptake among 12 to 15-year-olds was just 38.4 per cent, while 63.9 per cent of 16 to 17-year-olds had had a first dose. 

The small risk the virus poses to children, as well as concerns about myocarditis after vaccination, are thought to be factors behind the low uptake.

Data from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation shows up to one in 56,000 12 to 15-year-olds will get myocarditis after their first Covid jab.

But the rate jumps to as many as one in 23,000 cases after second doses.

And the AstraZeneca jab has been linked with blood clots in younger people, which pushed health chiefs to limit the use of the Oxford-made injection to the over-40s.

But Novavax trial data shows the jab only triggered mild and short-lived side effects, with no serious adverse effects.

Its study did not include under-18s and was not big enough to pick up on either of the very rare side effects, but found that adults overall tolerated the jab well, with reported side effects being mild and short-lived. 

Novavax is currently trialling its jab on 2,200 12 to 17-year-olds in the US.

The other Covid vaccines also showed similar results at a trial stage, but experts are hopeful that the Novavax findings will hold strong if the jab is rolled out in the population. 

Professor Neil Mabbott, chair in immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh, told MailOnlinethe because the jab has fewer side effects than the current crop of injections used in the UK, Novavax ‘could offer an alternative strategy for use in children that might avoid the very low risk of developing potentially severe side effects’.

And similar protein-based technology has been used for years in routine childhood vaccines, he said. 

Professor Mabbott said: ‘This may help to provide some safety reassurance to those who until now have been hesitant about coming forward to have their own Covid vaccine. 

‘This may also help to alleviate the concerns parents may have about the use of these vaccines in children. This could have a positive impact on vaccine uptake.’

He added: ‘It is important to mention that serious side-effects such as blood clots and heart inflammation following vaccination with the mRNA-based (Pfizer or Moderna) and adenovirus-based (AstraZeneca or Janssen) Covid vaccines have been very rare. 

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