Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The COVID-19 vaccine will only be licensed in the UK for use in children aged between five and 11.
A vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The single jab, COVID-19, will be available free of charge to all children aged five to 11 unless they’re already vaccinated against the viruses.
Here are some key facts about the COVID-19 vaccine.
What is it?
Currently there are four MMR vaccines on the market.
They are known as Acrodose, Globus AcidoVac, Varivax and MMR. The Acrodose vaccine is available only as a prescription only and MMR on the NHS.
The WHO’s Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) suggests there should be three types of MMR vaccine: two for adults and two for children.
Varivax and MMR – the two available for adults
Varivax is also an oral vaccine made from a special biocompatible protein derived from cowpox. It is usually given in two doses either in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
The first dose contains a live measles vaccine (co-formulated with the MMR and rubella versions). The second dose contains only a weakened virus protein.
The WHO’s latest report – from 2013-2014 – reveals the countries with the highest incidence of measles were India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Syria, Bangladesh, Zambia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Yemen.
So, why is there a need for a separate vaccine for kids?
As with any vaccine, there are risks associated with vaccines for children.
The main risks are:
– in the case of an allergic reaction, which is more likely with the MMR vaccine
– seizures, and including some rare deaths linked to vaccine refusal
– loss of consciousness or brain swelling
– with an autoimmune reaction involving an injury or allergy to a component of the vaccine, as for someone with a peanut allergy.
The government’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Having to decide whether to pay for a vaccine is a very stressful time for parents and as a healthcare professional I know the decision to vaccinate against measles is a big one for people.
“It’s important, therefore, that parents can be reassured that if there are particular concerns that they will always be looked at.”
While the MMR vaccine works by protecting the immune system from three main types of infection, there are still other forms of infection that can occur in a child.
One of these are Haemophilus influenzae (Hib) which infects the lungs, skin, airways and blood.
Children can also become infected with other viruses, such as influenza and polio, as well as HIV.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Rubella can affect the unborn baby, leading to lifelong health problems
What is so different about COVID-19?
The vaccine has been developed by the FfD UK and Vectura who have been working on it for the past five years.
It is said to be the first in a series of vaccines which are being developed to reduce the risk of autism and measles.
Seventeen test babies who were vaccinated had their autism symptoms removed.
After a further month of follow-up, there was no sign of autism symptoms in the children but they had not been vaccinated against Hib, which is known to have an affect on the unborn baby.
Looking at the wider family, the doctors measured that when the vaccines were taken away from the blood from just two of the 53 children, there was no longer any sign of autism in their other eight children.
What are some of the risks?
While the MMR vaccine is recommended for children, people who are immunocompromised, people with a weakened immune system or men who have been in serotonergic basins (blood vessel on the surface of the brain) are not recommended to get the jab.