More than 100 clinically vulnerable Bedford children shielding from Covid will not get a vaccine - here's why
Dozens of families of vulnerable children in Bedford face uncertainty
The roll out of Covid-19 vaccination to the extremely vulnerable brings welcome relief to households across the country, but dozens of Bedford families face continued anxiety as to how to protect their children in this high-risk group.
Across England there are more than 56,100 children under 18 on the Shielded Patient List of extremely vulnerable people.
But none of the approved vaccines have been tested for use on under 16s.
NHS Digital data shows that there are 175 children in Bedford on the Shielded Patient List.
The list, which has been compiled using a clinical algorithm as well as GP referrals, includes people who have been identified as being most at risk of complications from coronavirus.
Of the 6,140 people on the list in Bedford, the largest age group of 1,330 patients is made up of people aged 70-79.
Vulnerable children under 16 will not be offered the vaccine and it is unclear how they can be protected.
The Government says that children and young people have a very low risk of contracting severe or deadly Covid-19 compared to adults, however there is an increased risk of exposure to infection and outbreaks in institutional settings.
The Green Book, which has the latest information on vaccines in the UK, says: “Vaccination may be considered for children with serious neuro-disabilities (including cerebral palsy, severe autism and Down’s syndrome) who spend regular time in specialised residential care settings for children with complex needs.
“As older children have higher risk of acquiring and becoming sick from infection and there are some safety data on the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12 years and older, vaccination of older children in these settings should be considered.”
Across England, 2.2 million people are shielding – 56,140 of them are under 18.
The Department of Health and Social Care declined to respond to specific questions about the vaccination options for families of younger, clinically vulnerable patients.
A spokesman said that very few children and young people were at risk of severe illness due to Covid and that doctors were reviewing those initially identified as clinically extremely vulnerable.
Contact, a charity that supports families with disabled children, said it wanted greater clarity from the Government.
Una Summerson, head of policy at the charity, said: “We would welcome information on the approach the Government’s expert committee is taking to find an appropriate vaccine for children with long term and rare conditions.
“It might be that some of these children can’t have a vaccine and that’s why it’s so important that their parents are vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccinating their parents will help protect clinically vulnerable children.
“The parents we support are worried about two things – getting the virus and not being able to look after their child, and passing the virus on to their medically vulnerable children.
“We know that people with underlying health conditions and learning disabilities are much more likely to die of Covid-19, so there is understandable fear and anxiety."
The Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health said it expects to see more safety data to be gathered from clinical trials to inform strategies for vaccination of under 16s.
A spokesman said: “This research is essential to ensure paediatricians are equipped to discuss immunisation with children, young people and parents and can address any questions they may have about the vaccine.
“Further data on the effect of vaccines on transmission of the virus is needed to shape strategies to cocoon those who cannot be vaccinated (due to immunosuppression or immunocompromise) by vaccinating close family and household contacts.”