Health secretary Sajid Javid said he has accepted the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommended that two small doses of the Pfizer vaccine be offered to this age group, separated by a 12-week interval.
The rollout will be “non-urgent”, given the low risk posed by Covid to young children, and is set to start in April, health officials said.
The JCVI said its recommendation should not disrupt or displace the delivery of other childhood vaccinations, or any other part of the current Covid vaccine programme.
Both Scotland and Wales have already announced their intention to follow the JCVI’s advice, breaking rank with Downing Street, which has taken longer to consider the policy.
It’s understood that the JCVI delivered its recommendation to ministers more than a week ago, only for the announcement to be delayed until today after No 10 overruled the Department of Health in accepting the policy, before reversing its position.
The NHS is already offering the Pfizer vaccine to at-risk 5 to 11-year-olds and those who live with immunosuppressed people in this age group.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 immunisation on the JCVI, said: “The committee has carefully considered the potential direct health impacts of vaccination and potential indirect educational impacts.
“The main purpose of offering vaccination to 5-11 year olds is to increase their protection against severe illness in advance of a potential future wave of Covid-19.
“Other important childhood vaccinations, such as MMR and HPV, have fallen behind due to the pandemic. It is vital these programmes continue and are not displaced by the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to this age group.”