Children as young as 12 will get their coronavirus vaccines from September as they government tries to avoid a third wave, reports say.
‘Core planning’ documents have been leaked showing schoolchildren will be given one dose when they go back to class after the summer.
There are also reportedly plans for Britons over 50 to be given booster jabs in the autumn amid fears over Covid variants sweeping Europe.
It comes as experts say vaccines should be able to control the pandemic as they published new real-world UK data showing jabs slash infection and cut transmission.
‘Core planning’ documents have been leaked showing schoolchildren will be given one dose when they go back to class after the summer (file photo)
A source told the Sun: ‘Plans are in place to vaccinate children aged 12 upwards, and senior government officials have been briefed.
‘Though controversial, it is deemed necessary to stop the UK regressing in its remarkable fight against Covid.’
Health officials are also said to be looking into jabbing children as young as five from July in a ‘worst case scenario’.
The leaked report shows the government’s contingency plan if the roadmap out of lockdown this summer leads to a surge in variants.
Children are less likely than the elderly to be severely impacted by the virus but can pass it on to those who are.
The Department of Health said no decision has been taken, adding: ‘We will be guided by experts once clinical trials have concluded.’
Health officials are also said to be looking into jabbing children as young as five from July in a ‘worst case scenario’ (file photo)
Earlier experts said vaccines should be able to control the pandemic as they published new real-world UK data showing jabs slash infection and cut transmission.
Just one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines leads to a two-thirds drop in coronavirus cases and is 74 per cent effective against symptomatic infection.
After two doses of Pfizer, there was a 70 per cent reduction in all cases and a 90 per cent drop in symptomatic cases – these are the people who are most likely to transmit coronavirus to others.
Experts are still collecting data on two doses of AstraZeneca but say their findings show that both vaccines work and are effective in the real world.
One of the new studies, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, is based on data from the national Covid-19 Infection Survey run by the University of Oxford and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It included a random sample of more than 373,000 adults from across the UK, who produced more than 1.6 million swab test results between December and April.
Professor Sarah Walker, from the University of Oxford and chief investigator for the survey, said the study suggested vaccines could reduce transmission and were also effective against the Kent variant of coronavirus.
She said: ‘Showing that the benefits are greater both for people with high viral load and for people with symptoms, both of whom have probably got the greatest chance of onward transmission, was really not necessarily something I was expecting and… I was pleasantly surprised.’
The study found that there were significantly more coronavirus cases among people who hadn’t been vaccinated (top two graphs) than there were in people who had been given jabs or who had had Covid before (bottom five graphs) The longer it had been since someone got their vaccine, less likely they were to catch coronavirus, the numbers suggest
The proportion of Covid-positive people who developed symptoms (orange dots) was significantly higher in unvaccinated people. For those who did have a vaccine or had natural immunity, most people didn’t get any symptoms at all if they picked up the virus (black dots)
Blood testing showed that people’s levels of virus-fighting antibodies rocketed after they got a vaccine, particularly if they had never had the virus, and they also rose substantially among people who already had natural immunity. The dotted line represents the threshold for testing positive for Covid-specific antibodies. The higher the number, the greater the protection, scientists believe
Only 900 people developing Covid-19 each day in England, symptom study says
Fewer than 900 people in England are now developing Covid each day, according to a symptom-tracking app. It is the lowest level ever and below estimates from August when there were next to no restrictions.
The Covid Symptom Study this week claims only 870 people suffered a symptomatic infection with the virus every day last week, based on reports from more than a million Britons.
This was the lowest weekly number since estimates began in June and below the previous low point in mid-August before the ‘rule of six’ and a flurry of other restrictions came into force. For comparison, there were around 50,000 daily cases in the darkest days of January.
Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College London epidemiologist who leads the study, said the still-falling cases suggested that concerning fast-spreading and potentially vaccine-dodging variants were not having an impact.
He added this was likely down to the successful vaccination programme – which has already jabbed three in every five Britons – social distancing, and warmer weather allowing people to spend more time outdoors.
Other promising data today showed England’s outbreak is still shrinking, as weekly Test and Trace figures showed positive tests fell by nine per cent in the seven days to April 14 — despite a huge increase in testing.
The data showed a 57 per cent drop in infections among people not experiencing symptoms after one vaccine dose.
Dr Koen Pouwels, senior researcher at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, said the experts were ‘fairly confident’ that the vaccines reduced onward transmission of the virus.
‘However, the fact that we saw smaller reductions in asymptomatic infections than infections with symptoms highlights the potential for vaccinated individuals to get Covid-19 again, and for limited ongoing transmission from vaccinated individuals, even if this is at a lower rate,’ he said.
‘This emphasises the need for everyone to continue to follow guidelines to reduce transmission risk, for example through social distancing and masks.’
Prof Walker said she was ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the pandemic could be controlled long term with vaccines.
She argued that ‘lockdown isn’t a viable solution’ in the long term and vaccines are ‘clearly going to be the only way that we are going to have a chance to control this long term.’
However, she said the ‘virus is very good at throwing us curveballs’ and ‘we’re always going to be one small step away from the potential for things to go wrong again’.
In a separate study published by the team also as a pre-print, just one dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer produced ‘strong antibody responses’ in 95% of people given a vaccine.
While the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs behave differently in the early stages, both vaccines produced antibody levels that were sustained for at least 10 weeks.
Professor David Eyre, from the University of Oxford, said this supported the UK’s decision to delay second doses by up to 12 weeks.
Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were also found to offer similar levels of protection against Covid-19 as for people who had had Covid previously.
Furthermore, the data showed that vaccination was just as effective in people over 75 or with underlying health conditions, as it was in those without or who were under 75.
And while everyone showed at least some response to both vaccines, fewer than 5% of people had low responses to both vaccines.
Almost everyone who had never had Covid tested positive for immune system antibodies after just one dose of either the Pfizer (left) or AstraZeneca (right) vaccine. The size of the bar indicates the proportion of people showing signs of immunity. Each row of bars represents a different age group, with the youngest adults at the top and oldest at the bottom. The time series shows that immunity gets stronger as time goes on – more people tested positive the longer time went on
Blood testing of people who had already had Covid once and then got vaccinated showed immunity was still boosted by the jabs, regardless of whether they got Pfizer (left) or AstraZeneca (right). The size of the bar indicates the proportion of people showing signs of immunity. Each row of bars represents a different age group, with the youngest adults at the top and oldest at the bottom
The researchers said there was a need to monitor this group’s response to a second vaccination.
Prof Eyre said: ‘In older individuals, two vaccine doses are as effective as prior natural infection at generating antibodies to the virus that causes Covid-19 – in younger individuals a single dose achieves the same level of response.
‘Our findings highlight the importance of individuals getting the second vaccine dose for increased protection.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Vaccines work and today’s findings from the ONS and Oxford University provide further evidence that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are having a significant impact on reducing infections across the UK.
‘With over 33 million first jabs already in arms, saving lives and cutting the risk of infection, it’s vital everyone gets their second dose when invited, to protect you and your loved ones against this disease.
‘The vaccine programme has shown what our country can achieve when working as one, it is our way out of the pandemic. When you get the call, get the jab.’
Health minister Lord Bethell said: ‘These real-world findings are extremely promising and show our historic vaccination programme is having a significant impact across the UK by reducing infections among people of all ages, including those with underlying health conditions.
‘I urge everyone to take up the offer of a free vaccine when invited and to make sure they get their second dose to gain maximum protection.
‘It remains essential everyone continues to follow Covid-19 restrictions whether they have had the vaccine or not.’
Covid is no longer the UK’s biggest killer
Britain’s coronavirus death rate could be close to zero because some of the tiny number of people counted as dying from the disease passed away from other causes, experts claimed today.
The Department of Health’s daily death figure includes anyone who dies of any cause within 28 days of a positive test, meaning patients who succumb to cancer, suffer a heart attack or get hit by a car within four weeks would be counted.
Oxford University professor Dr Jason Oke said that when a lot of people are swabbed – about a million per day at the moment – some of them will inevitably die naturally of causes ‘unrelated to Covid’.
Professor Karol Sikora, an expert in medicine at the University of Buckingham, told MailOnline the Government’s 24 average Covid deaths per day had the potential to be ‘significantly’ lower. Official figures show about a quarter of Covid deaths are people who died ‘with’ the virus, rather than directly ‘from’ it.
But other scientists said even patients in which Covid was not their underlying cause of death, the virus probably ‘made their last days much more uncomfortable, or even shortened their life by a substantial amount’.
Meanwhile, a batch of statistics published today revealed Covid is no longer the leading cause of death in England and Wales for the first time since October, and the number of people falling ill with the virus is at its lowest level on record.
Office for National Statistics figures showed the virus was the third biggest killer in March, accounting for 4,387 out of a total 48,551 deaths (9 per cent) — behind dementia and heart disease (both 10.1 per cent). Covid deaths have dropped even further in April because of the huge vaccination roll-out and effects of lockdown restrictions.