British children aged 5 to 11, one of the last remaining groups in the country still broadly ineligible for the coronavirus vaccine, will be offered doses under new guidance announced on Wednesday by Britain’s independent vaccine advisory committee.
Sajid Javid, England’s health secretary, said in a statement that the National Health Service would begin to offer vaccine doses to children in that age range in April. Scotland and Wales, which have their own health systems, also announced plans on Wednesday to begin vaccinating children 5 to 11.
Medically vulnerable children in that age group are already being vaccinated in Britain, following guidance the committee issued in December.
Mr. Javid said the intention of the broader policy was to allow parents the opportunity “to increase protection against potential future waves of Covid-19 as we learn to live with this virus.”
Britain has been slower than many other European nations or the United States to extend vaccine eligibility to younger children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration did so for children 5 to 11 in October.
In Britain, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization said on Wednesday that the children should be offered two pediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, spaced 12 weeks apart. For adults, the initial doses of the vaccine are larger and are generally given four weeks apart.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, who leads the committee’s coronavirus program, said the scientific advisors had “carefully considered the potential direct health impacts of vaccination and potential indirect educational impacts” of protecting children against severe illness.