The Pfizer vaccine, given at one-third the dose of adults, was approved as safe and effective for children by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in December. But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation previously recommended the vaccine only for vulnerable five- to 11-year-olds.
Millions of children aged five to 11 have been vaccinated in other countries, such as the US and countries in Europe.
Five parents share their reactions.
‘We’ve slipped behind everybody else’
We’ll get it as soon as my daughter gets the opportunity to be vaccinated. She’ll be quite happy about it after catching the virus twice.
My five-year-old daughter got Covid the first time in August. We hadn’t seen my dad and my family, since Covid started, for over a year. She felt really bad, saying “Now I can’t see grandad”. The second time, at the end of November, there was a massive outbreak and they had to close the school. We live in a village. It’s very isolating for these kids who are just building their social skills. We felt the worst thing about the pandemic was the loss of a normal childhood.
I’m glad about the decision, but I don’t understand why it took so long, as we were the first country to approve the vaccine. Much fanfare was made of that, but we’ve slipped behind everybody else. Loretta Maddox, 47, PhD researcher, Brecon Beacons, Wales
‘We don’t know if other variants will affect children in more dangerous ways’
I’ll be getting the vaccine as soon as possible for my nine-year-old. She got Covid at Christmas after spending a few weeks with school friends, all getting positive results. We live in London, so it was everywhere at that time. You knew it was inevitable. I had hoped that the vaccine programme would have started before she got it, but one child fell sick after another.
We were worried because our eldest child, who is 11, has a pre-existing health condition and our nine-year-old has asthma. They were poorly and had temperatures, but luckily they don’t seem to have any long-term symptoms. Our 11-year-old has now had the vaccine and we’d like to give our nine-year-old the best chance of not getting long Covid.
The Omicron variant has been mild, but we don’t know if other variants will go on to affect children in more dangerous ways. Maybe it will be suitable for my three-year-old at some point, but we’ll wait and see if that’s needed. Laura Seabright, 44, secondary school teacher, London
‘I wasn’t sure about giving it to my children’
During the early pandemic, I wasn’t sure about giving it to my children, now aged seven and 10. My slight hesitation at the time was around long-term health consequences of being vaccinated – if there was something it kicked off in your body that was not understood. Really, it was fear of the unknown and of the untested.
My 10-year-old son caught Covid in November from school and is still suffering the long-term consequences. He’s gone from being a bright, engaged, academic, sporty kid with more energy than anybody, to a short walk being impossible. On his worst days, he’d get dressed and bring his pyjamas downstairs for the evening so he wouldn’t have to go upstairs to collect them.
Now that most of the developed world has done it, I would without hesitation get my children vaccinated. I’m actually just angry it wasn’t available earlier. It’s quite sad that it’s been available, but not to our children – their futures have been taken for a gamble. Janine Ainscow, 45, Leicestershire
‘I feel anxious about making this decision’
If there are clear and worthwhile benefits to vaccinating five to 11-year-olds, I don’t feel these have been communicated effectively, and as the father of a healthy six-year-old girl, I feel anxious about making this decision.
From all the information that’s currently available, the risk to children of severe illness and death from Covid appears to be vanishingly small. We now know that although vaccines are crucial for protecting the lives of elderly and immunocompromised people, the benefits for the wider population are relatively short-lived, and its ability to prevent the spread of infection limited.
In this context it’s difficult to understand what the impetus is for focusing energies on healthy children. Wouldn’t it be much better to redouble efforts toward the unvaccinated vulnerable and elderly categories? George, 38, small business owner, London
‘I’m concerned about long Covid for my children’
I’m really joyful for children; every child deserves this protection. I’m thrilled that England has decided to move forward and do what everyone else was doing. I’m from Boston and have lived here for eight years, and all my American friends have been quite shocked and in huge disbelief that we couldn’t get the kids vaccinated here.
After my husband’s office said he’d need to come back in later this month, we took our five- and seven-year-old over to Ireland to get vaccinated. We just called up and they said we could get it. Luckily, RyanAir flights are very inexpensive – now hopefully for the second jab we won’t have to travel.
There are lots of motivations. My infant can’t get vaxxed, and I wanted to protect her; babies don’t have developed immune systems. I’m also concerned about long Covid for my children. Hopefully now this means we can go back to the US and visit their grandparents without bringing a disease from the UK. Melissa Branzburg, 38, London