AS an NHS doctor and father of three, I am convinced that all children over the age of 12 should have the Covid -19 jab.
My children are aged between 14 and eight, and I am keen to get my eldest son the jab as soon as possible, ideally before the new school term starts.
When my other son, who is now 11, turns 12 I will recommend he has the vaccine too, because Covid is not going away.
While I am confident that the virus will never be as bad as it was in the first and second waves, Covid will be with us indefinitely.
There is very good evidence that the vaccine does reduce infection and transmission.
And giving the vaccine to teenagers will be the final piece in the jigsaw that allows us to get our lives back to something approaching normality.
The Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation was wise to take their time and wait until they had the safety data on the effects of the Covid jab on children.
From recent clinical trials, as well as from real-world evidence of millions of children in the US being vaccinated, we now have very good data that the Pfizer vaccine IS safe for 12 to 17-year-olds.
There was a worry that the jab might cause inflammation of the heart in a small group of youngsters.
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But experience has now shown this is very rare and, in the cases we are aware of, the side-effect is short-lived and the children who had it have recovered.
Because most adults are now vaccinated, the virus is spreading more quickly among younger age groups, particularly in secondary school children.
Over the school holidays, this will be less prominent. But if none of them are vaccinated, come September that is likely to happen again.
Covid has already had a huge detrimental impact on our children’s education, especially if they are from poorer backgrounds.
If kids are not vaccinated, nothing will change in September.
Thousands of pupils and their families will again be forced to isolate, which will have a big knock-on effect — especially on organisations such as the NHS, where many workers have children.
Two of my kids have had to isolate twice because of contact at school, and it has been a common experience.
To protect their education, it is important they are vaccinated — and there are other benefits for them, too.
As we know, children can get Covid. But thankfully severe cases are rare and for a child to die from it is extremely rare.
The Delta variant means it is going to be very difficult to reach herd immunity — maybe even impossible.
But the closer you are to 100 per cent of people being immune — either from vaccination or infection — the harder it is for the virus to spread.
We are not far off 100 per cent in adults. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 94 per cent of us have got antibodies either from vaccination or infection.
We do not have the figures yet for children, but data published a week ago suggests that 50 per cent of secondary school children may have been infected. That means that half have not, so vaccination would certainly benefit them.
The vaccine is not available just yet, but it would be a good idea for children to have it before the school term starts.
When I take my 14-year-old for his vaccination, I will obviously discuss it with him beforehand, because he is old enough. A single dose of the vaccine in young adults provides the same protection as two doses in those over 40.
There is also a secondary benefit to families, particularly if a family member could not get vaccinated for any reason.
And it’s the same if you are living in a multi-generational household with elderly grandparents.
PARENTS NEED TO DECIDE
Most grandparents are now vaccinated, but their risk of contracting Covid even after having the jab is not zero.
By vaccinating children, we would reduce that risk further.
Whether to have your child vaccinated against Covid is a decision for every parent to make and I don’t think there should be any coercion.
It is a matter of giving people the evidence and persuading them.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of disinformation around.
There is no evidence that it impacts on future fertility. Lots of women have become pregnant after taking the vaccine, and it also provides good protection for the women themselves.
Some of the concerns people have had are unfounded and are based on speculation, so it is important that people have the right information so they can make an informed choice.
The priority over the coming weeks is to get that information out to parents.
- Dr Raghib Ali served on the Covid front line in all three waves. He is a consultant in acute medicine at Oxford University Hospitals Trust and clinical researcher at Cambridge University.