Britain is currently on track to give all adults at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of July, according to officials, but it could take three more months to jab the 14million children in the UK.
The vaccine rollout is expected to drop to 150,000 first doses dished out a day in the next few months because of shortages in the supply of Pfizer and Moderna‘s jabs. Britain’s rollout has already slowed to 280,000 doses a day despite the pressing need to reach all adults as soon as possible amid the current surge in cases.
But Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, insisted the ‘safest time’ to reopen fully would be after all children have had a jab.
The SAGE advisor said secondary school children at the very least have to have at least one jab before Britain can irreversibly leave lockdown.
He said without a nationwide rollout to children, there would continue to be ‘disruptions’ affecting children at school, including mass testing and bubbles.
His comments come despite No10 all but committing to the July 19 end date for coronavirus restrictions.
Boris Johnson yesterday told a cabinet meeting that Britain would have to live with Covid in the same way it does flu.
And Professor Chris Whitty yesterday told a cabinet briefing Britain would be able to go through the final stage of lockdown easing as planned because deaths and hospitalisations remain flat, despite surging case numbers.
SAGE adviser Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has called for all children to be vaccinated before the UK leaves lockdown, despite deaths hospitalisations and deaths flatlining.
Daily Covid hospitalisations (green) are starting to creep up as a result of the Indian variant outbreak but the speed at which they are rising week-on-week has already started to slow (red line)
But Professor Edmunds told BBC Newsnight: ‘At some point we do have to dismantle all of these measures that we’ve put in place.
‘I think, for me, the safest time to do that is when children have been vaccinated, certainly secondary-school-aged children at least. That’s the safest way.
‘If we can show it’s safe, and I think we are still gathering data from where vaccine has been used overseas, in Israel and the US and elsewhere, I think that’s going to be the way we can put this epidemic behind us and children can move on.’
He continued: ‘Until we do that there’ll be other sorts of disruptions, whether they’re related to mass testing or whether it’s related to exclusions of bubbles.
‘I think all of these measures do have to go and I think children are looking on and thinking, “Well, vaccinated adults can get on with their lives, so why can’t I?”.
‘We do have to give that serious consideration between now and September.’
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which polices the safety of drugs in the UK, has already approved Pfizer’s Covid jab for 12- to 15-year-olds.
But ministers have yet to expand the roll-out to children, despite Whitehall sources talking of plans to dish out jabs to youngsters in September.
No10 is waiting for guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which advises them on the inoculation drive.
Just one in 100 NHS beds are currently being taken up by Covid patients in England — fourteen times fewer than at the start of the second wave. Graph shows: The percentage of all hospital beds available to the NHS being taken up by Covid patients on June 22 this year (red bars) compared to on December 14 (blue bars), the last time infections were above 20,000 and rising
Earlier this month it was revealed the panel — made up of some of the country’s top vaccinologists — wants to wait for more data on how safe vaccines are for children, amid concerns about heart damage.
Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have both been linked to extremely rare cases of myocarditis — inflammation of the heart — particularly in young men.
There are fears the condition could also affect children after vaccination, who face a low risk of dying from Covid.
Scientists are divided on whether children need to be vaccinated in the UK, with some insisting it will be necessary to counter the more transmissible Indian ‘Delta’ variant.
Professor David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline moving the roll-out on to children posed a moral dilemma, with legitimate safety concerns meaning it is not worth risking children’s well-being for the sake of adults.
One of the Government’s senior scientific advisers also warned of the ethical dilemma posed by vaccinating children — who face a one-in-a-million risk of dying from coronavirus.
SAGE’s Professor Calum Semple, an expert in outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said he is against vaccinating the 14million children in the UK.
The MHRA said it is ‘closely monitoring reports of myocarditis and pericarditis received with the Covid vaccines’.
It has recorded just 34 cases of myocarditis after Pfizer jabs — a similar number to after the AstraZeneca vaccine — and only two after Moderna, but says numbers ‘similar or below expected background levels’.