Children aged 6 months to four years will be eligible for a Covid vaccine for the first time if they are in a clinically vulnerable category.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that children under five years who are in a clinical risk group as outlined in the Green Book should receive two 3-microgram doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
NHS England has confirmed it will begin offering vaccinations to those eligible in England from mid-June and said parents should wait to be contacted before coming forward.
It follows a marketing authorisation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use of the Pfizer jab in those aged six months to four years in December.
More guidance on a potential third dose in children who are immunosuppressed will follow in due course.
The JCVI said although young children are generally at low risk of developing severe illness from Covid-19, infants and young children who have underlying medical conditions are over seven times more likely to be admitted to paediatric intensive care units.
Their analysis also took into account that by September 2022, public health officials that estimated 93% of children aged 1 to 4 years had had prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The committee also said one million children aged 6 months to 4 years in the US had received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine since June 2022.
US data showed the most common side effects reported were similar to other vaccines given in this age group, such as irritability or crying, sleepiness, and fever.
The vaccine should be offered with an interval of at least eight weeks between the first and second doses at least four weeks after a Covid-19 infection.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI’s Covid-19 Committee, said: ‘For the vast majority of infants and children, Cvid-19 causes only mild symptoms, or sometimes no symptoms.
‘However, for a small group of children with pre-existing health conditions it can lead to more serious illness and, for them, vaccination is the best way to increase their protection.’
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), added: ‘Covid-19 is still in circulation, with thousands of new cases reported every week.
‘The extra protection offered by the vaccine could be important for young children in clinical risk groups, who are at greater risk of severe illness.
‘The virus is not going away so I would encourage all parents to bring their child forward if they are eligible. Parents should wait to be contacted by their local health professionals.’
The Spring Covid-19 booster programme also starts this month with care home residents being offered the vaccine first.
It is also the last chance for anyone to get a first or second Covid vaccine dose with the offer being removed in June the government has confirmed.