Vaccines for under-18s could begin in August, according to plan leaked to The Telegraph. This would mean 11 million under 18s could have jabs by the start of the autumn term. The proposal is bound to be controversial because the virus poses only a minuscule risk to children. Israel is the first country in the world to have rolled out vaccines to children, with 16 and 17-year-olds having jabs after the health ministry decided it was safe. The risk of dying from covid if infected is just 0.1 per 100,000 for children aged five to nine, compared to 1,513 for over-80s.
The Department of Health and Social Care said ‘no decisions have been made’ on whether children should be offered vaccinations. There are likely to be exemptions if the vaccine is granted approval for children, and it is expected that parents would have the final say so in any case. Britain’s vaccine drive, like Israel’s, has been immensely successful – with around three million first doses administered each week.
The proposal to vaccinate children underlines the extent to which the government feels it must drive down cases ahead of next winter. Boris Johnson on Tuesday conceded at the Downing Street press briefing that eradicating covid wasn’t on the table. ‘I’m not sure that eradication makes sense in a globalised economy for one country alone,’ the PM said. Mr Johnson struck a sombre tone on Tuesday as Britain remembered its 126,000 Covid dead on the first anniversary of lockdown.
He offered his ‘sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones’ as he reflected on ‘a very dark and difficult year’ . But he has warned recently of another wave ‘washing up on our shores’ amid rising cases in Europe. It is ‘too early to say’ whether overseas holidays would be possible, he said on Tuesday .