Virtually any child between the ages of 12 and 15 would get COVID-19 at some point without vaccination, England’s chief medical officer has said.
Professor Chris Whitty said that the highest rate of coronavirus transmission is currently occurring in children of this age group.
Approximately half of all children have already had coronavirus during the pandemic, he added.
Speaking to a committee of MPs, he said that “there is definitely substantial transmission happening in this age group… as far as we can tell”.
“Virtually any child, unvaccinated, is likely to get an infection at some point between 12 and 15,” he said.
And on vaccinating young people, Mr Whitty said that “we are very clear this is not a silver bullet” but that it “will significantly reduce… the amount of disruption” to education.
He added: “You are not comparing a child being vaccinated against nothing happening. You are comparing a child being vaccinated against a near certainty that child will get COVID.
“Under that environment, our estimate is that probably you would have fewer days lost as a result of being vaccinated.”
Although the vaccination programme may cause some disruption to schools, it will be outweighed by the disruption if children caught COVID-19, he said.
“The great majority of children who have not currently had COVID are going to get it at some point,” he added.
“It won’t be necessary in the next two or three months but they will get it sooner or later because this is incredibly infectious… vaccination will reduce that risk.”
Also speaking about giving one dose of the Pfizer vaccine to school children, deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the side effects of that first dose are lower than those from a second dose.
He went on to say it is “extremely inconvenient to be laid low” by COVID-19, albeit for a small number of days.
Children aged between 12 and 15 have begun receiving a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine, following a recommendation from the UK’s chief medical officers.
The CMOs previously said they believe one jab will have a “marked effect” on classroom absences and community transmission.
Professor Whitty told MPs this decision had not been made for political reasons, or in the interests of more vulnerable adults but purely for the benefit of those aged between 12 and 15.