Covid vaccinations open for five to 11-year-olds in England

The development comes as a record 4.9 million people in the UK were estimated to have had the virus in the week ending March 26, according to the Office for National Statistics – up from 4.3 million the week before. 

The surge in Covid cases also came as free tests ended for most people in England on Friday.

The ONS figures revealed that Covid infections among people aged 35 and over in England have reached record levels, with “notable increases” in the oldest groups. Prevalence of Covid is higher among these groups than at any point since ONS estimates began in spring 2020.

Prevalence of the virus among the over-70s has been at an all-time high for several weeks, and climbed again to 6.6 per cent, or one in 15 people, in the seven days to March 26. Meanwhile, infections among 50 to 69-year-olds hit a record high for the second week in a row and stand at 7.2 per cent, the equivalent of one in 14 people.

An estimated eight per cent of people aged 35 to 49 were also likely to have had the virus last week, or around one in 13.

However, prevalence among all age groups remains highest for children between the age two and school year 6, with one in 11 likely to have had Covid-19 last week.

‘It’s a very unpleasant illness for children’

Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, told Sky News: “This is now a vaccine-preventable disease and the vaccine is safer than the disease.

“It’s a very unpleasant illness for children. And if they have a weakened immune system or if they live in a family where a member has a weakened immune system, the consequences can be devastating. So yes I am pleased.”

Prof Semple, who advises the Government as part of Sage, said the vaccine will reduce days lost from education.

Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and the deputy lead for the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, said: “From today, parents of almost five million five to 11-year-olds can book their little ones in for a vaccine, ensuring they get their first dose of protection and helping to protect against potential future waves of Covid-19.

“Vaccines remain the best defence we have against the virus – my 13-year-old son has had his two vaccinations and I’ll be booking my 10-year-old daughter in for hers at the earliest opportunity, and would encourage all parents to read the NHS information available and consider doing the same.”

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