COVID-19 vaccinations for young children now expected to start later than previously expected due to pandemic fears
The British and Irish governments, backed by the majority EU, are being urged to allow children as young as three months old to get the first COVID-19 vaccines within weeks, amid fears the spread of the disease could put the health of unborn babies at risk.
Last Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved for use the first COVID-19 vaccines on an individual basis, which could help safeguard vulnerable children as they face the possible threat of the virus.
Now, some health experts fear the new age restrictions could force parents to postpone or even scrap the vaccination and, in severe cases, expose their children to the virus and potentially result in babies being born with serious side-effects like paralysis.
The UK is among a number of countries introducing age restrictions on COVID-19 immunisations for children under 16 and is expected to introduce them across the EU by mid-April.
A recent paper in the journal BMJ published by health experts, in response to the EMA’s advice on COVID-19 vaccines for young children, urged authorities in the UK to consider allowing them to be given.
The paper argues that without vaccines, infants could be exposed to the virus causing Sars-CoV-2 infection and potentially develop severe and potentially fatal complications that could not be prevented by current treatment options.
Some children in the UK are entitled to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine since it allows children as young as three months old to access it, provided they meet age-specific eligibility criteria.
However, parents in the UK are now being urged to apply for a clinical trial for their babies if they fall into one of the three age categories where the vaccine is not available to the general population.
The BMJ study said that the three categories where a COVID-19 vaccine would not be available to the general population were: babies aged between three months and six months of age, children aged between six months and one year, and children aged between one and four years old.
It added: “It makes sense to think about offering [COVID-19] vaccines to the first three months of life, as