Health officials said they regularly plan for how to roll out vaccines quickly according to the latest expert advice, after a report that coronavirus jabs could be given to children younger than 12 next year.
Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are licensed in the UK only for children aged 12 and over.
The Sun newspaper reported on leaked proposals which it said showed that health bosses are preparing to jab children aged between five and 11 next spring.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said “expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness” must be met before vaccines would be authorised for children in this age category.
A spokesperson said: “Extending the use of a Covid-19 vaccine to children aged five to 11 would only be authorised if the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness are met.
“As with children aged 12 and above, parents can be fully assured that for any potential authorisation in this age group, the safety of the children would be our top priority.”
If the MHRA extended the licence for younger children, the Government would consider recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) before any rollout.
Asked about the newspaper report, a spokesperson for NHS England said: “The NHS regularly plans for how it would operationalise opening vaccines to more people so it is ready to extend the jab quickly when and if any decision is recommended by the JCVI.”
An unnamed source quoted in The Sun said plans could change, but noted that asking parents for permission to vaccinate young children “is in the schedule”.
US health officials gave the final sign-off to the Pfizer vaccine for use in five to 11-year-olds at the beginning of November, with doses to be administered at a third of the amount given to teenagers and adults. Children aged 12 to 15 in the UK have been able to get a first Covid-19 vaccination since September. The JCVI has not yet advised on second jabs for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds.
But in an update in recent days, experts advised that children aged 12 and over who have had a Covid-19 infection should not get a vaccine until 12 weeks later.
Deferring could help to reduce even further the “very, very small” risk of heart inflammation after vaccination, experts from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.