Teenagers will be prioritised over children for the jab if Britain decides to start inoculating under-18s, a Government adviser on vaccines has said.
Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), insisted that no decision has been made about vaccinating children – despite reports youngsters could start receiving the jab as early as August.
The University of Bristol expert said more research was needed before the JCVI could decide if the vaccination programme should be extended to cover children and young people.
Under-18s are currently not eligible for the Covid jab in most cases but Oxford University is researching the effects of the jab on children, with early results expected in the summer.
Children rarely fall ill with the virus but they do play a role in its transmission.
While children are unlikely to fall ill with Covid-19, they do play a role in transmitting the virus.
Officials are said to be looking at how the jab could be extended to children, with the potential to start as early as August, the Telegraph reported.
Asked about the reports, Prof Finn told Good Morning Britain: “As far as I know there has been no decision made to immunise children starting in August, or indeed any decision been taken to immunise children at all at this point.
“But it’s certainly something that we might need to do.”
Prof Finn said it was likely that teenagers would be prioritised as the existing evidence shows older children were more likely to spread the virus.
He said results from more than one study are needed, adding: “If it does turn out to be necessary to immunise children, I think it is more likely that we would prioritise teenagers over younger children, simply because the evidence we have at the moment is that transmission of the virus is more likely to occur from and between teenagers who are a little bit more like adults.
“I think what we need to learn before that (is) what proportion of the population we need to immunise in order to get effective herd immunity and to suppress circulation of the virus.
“In order to do that, we need to have a clear understanding of how efficiently the vaccines actually interrupt infection and transmission, and that evidence is still on its way at the moment.”
Experts will make a decision on whether children need to be immunised when they have more evidence about the impact of the jabs programme among adults and whether any worrying new variants have emerged.
Prof Finn said: “We clearly won’t want to do that unless it’s necessary.
“But if it is necessary we will by then know whether the vaccines are entirely safe and effective and we’re giving the right dose and so on, so that we go forward with that later in the year.”
Currently, only children at very high risk of severe infection are offered a jab.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “While clinical trials are under way to test the efficacy and safety of Covid-19 vaccines in children and young adults, these trials have not concluded yet.
“We will be guided by the advice of our experts on these issues including the independent JCVI.”