Intended for healthcare professionals


Vaccinating children against SARS-CoV-2

BMJ 2021; 373 doi: (Published 13 May 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1197

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  1. Jennie S Lavine, researcher1,
  2. Ottar Bjornstad, professor2,
  3. Rustom Antia, professor1
  1. 1Department of Biology, Emory University, Atlanta GA, USA
  2. 2Department of Biology, Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: J S Lavine jslavin{at}

Hard to justify right now for most children in most countries

Following widespread vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 of older adults and other highly vulnerable groups, some high income countries are now considering vaccinating children; just days ago, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in children 12-15 years of age. Young people have been largely spared from severe covid-19 so far,12 and the value of childhood vaccination against respiratory viruses in general remains an open question for three reasons: the limited benefits of protection in age groups that experience only mild disease3; the limited effects on transmission because of the range of antigenic types and waning vaccine induced immunity4; and the possibility of unintended consequences related to differences in vaccine induced and infection induced immunity.5 We discuss each in turn.


The cost-benefit balance of any vaccination campaign depends on disease burden in the target population and available resources.6 Covid-19 severity in children under the age of 12 is similar to that of influenza,7 and as health resources are …

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