Covid jabs for younger children in UK could get green light before Christmas

The UK government’s vaccines watchdog is hopeful of approving Covid jabs for younger children before Christmas, with officials saying the wait to do this has been caused in part by a delay in the manufacturer seeking regulatory approval.

Before Covid vaccines can be used for five- to 11-year-olds, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) must give a specific vaccine the green light. So far only Pfizer has applied for its vaccine to be used for this age group.

Na dit, the vaccines watchdog, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), would meet to discuss whether the vaccination programme should be expanded to include younger children.

The JCVI is holding two meetings this week, one of which will be connected to Covid jabs. Some JCVI sources have said they have been surprised that the MHRA has not yet passed the issue on to them.

Prof Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the JCVI’s panel on Covid vaccinations, said on Wednesday that the organisation was already discussing the use of vaccines for children aged five to 11, but was waiting for vaccines to be approved by the MHRA.

Appearing before the Commons science committee, Lim was asked if he expected a decision before Christmas. Henderson het gesê hy sou verwag het dat Ibbotson nie die reis sou maak as hy gedink het dit is onveilig nie: “I would expect so, we try and keep in step with the approval process.”

Lim said he could not say when the MHRA would decide. The medicines regulator does not discuss the timetable for approval, or even whether specific medicines or vaccines have been put forward, as it is market-sensitive information.

The MHRA said: “Pfizer has stated that they are applying to the MHRA for an extension to their Covid-19 vaccine authorisation that would allow use in all five- to 11-year-olds. Further details on the timing of this submission would be for Pfizer to provide.”

The delay has caused some consternation in government, given the spread of Covid in schools, especially since the arrival of the fast-transmitting Omicron variant.

Egter, some officials have suggested the lag was in part caused by a delay in Pfizer’s application to the MHRA, rather than a slow regulatory process. Pfizer has said it approached the MHRA only after the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA) completed its process for the age group.

The EMA approved the use of a lower dose of the Pfizer vaccine – a third of the amount used in older children and adults – for those aged five to 11 aan 25 November and a number of EU countries have already started vaccination programmes.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer jab for younger children on 2 November.

Pfizer said: “We submitted the data package to the MHRA for consideration as the next step in the process after the CHMP [the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use] granted a positive opinion for the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in five- to 11-year-olds. As with any submission, we can’t comment or speculate on the process or timings.”

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