Virtually any child aged between 12 and 15 who doesn’t get vaccinated will catch Covid at some point, England’s Chief Medical Officer said on Wednesday.
He was facing questions from MPs on the Education Committee about the inclusion of children in the Government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam added that because the Delta variant is at least 60 per cent more infectious than the Alpha variant “we are not looking at a theoretical risk of children 12-17 becoming infected. I think it is really quite inevitable that they will be so at some point.”
He said they may be infected at a point in their educational careers, such as during GCSEs and ALevels, when it is “extremely inconvenient” to be laid low “with a cough, fever, and respiratory symptoms.”
Professor Whitty said there is “substantial transmission” happening among children. He added: “The age group we are talking about is the one in which the highest rate of transmission is currently occurring as far as we can tell.”
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Professor Whitty and his counterparts in the other three UK nations recommended that a Covid vaccine should be offered to all children aged 12 to 15.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had earlier concluded that the margin of benefit was too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15 year olds, but suggested that the Government should seek advice from the chief medical officers on the wider societal and educational impacts.
All children aged 12 to 15 in England are being offered one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid jab, which they will receive in schools. The first pupils began receiving their jabs this week.
Some schools have already been targeted by anti-vaxx protestors sending letters threatening legal action if they take part. School leaders have emphasised that the role of schools is limited to hosting these sessions and dealing with associated communications, and they played no part in the decision to vaccinate children.
Asked by committee chair Robert Halfon if children who do not get the Covid vaccine will be stigmatised, Professor Van Tam said he has never heard of a case of a child being stigmatised for refusing the flu vaccine, and he is “extremely reassured” by the “extreme competence” of the system.