Children ‘paying the price’ for delayed approval of Covid vaccine, experts warn

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Experts have said that children are ‘paying the price’ for delayed approval of a Covid vaccine for children aged 12 to 15, with cases now rising among these groups and disrupting education.

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In the week leading up to September 16, more than 100,000 children were absent from school due to confirmed or suspected COVID infection, while cases aged five to 14 years almost jumped to 811 per 100,000 for the same period – A record high for the pandemic.

If the current growth rate in cases continues, it will be only a matter of weeks before the same number of children with Covid will be out of school as during the summer period, when the “bubble” system put nearly 1.1 million young people in isolation. was forced.


Irene Peterson, professor of epidemiology at University College London, believes that if the vaccine rollout for 12- to 15-year-olds had started before the reopening of schools, the current high caseload reported among children would could have been avoided.

“I think if we had started vaccination in August, as they did in Ireland – and throughout Europe in the summer – we could have stopped this huge increase in infections among young adolescents,” she said.

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“I think it was too late for us to start our immunization program for children. I am fully aware of this debate and why it was a late decision, but I think it is now young teenagers who Paying the price with your parents.”

The week-on-week increase of 80 percent in child infections has fueled an increase in cases among people aged 30 to 49, which now stands at 286 per 100,000.

Vaccination for young teens only started on Wednesday last week, ending weeks of discussion among health officials over the policy.

After a lengthy review, the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization adjourned the decision to four UK Chief Medical Officers. They recommended that more than 3 million 12- to 15-year-olds be offered a single dose of the Pfizer jab.

Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, said “dieting and delays” among health advisories had proved “expensive”, pointing out that the UK’s drug regulator concluded in early June that the Pfizer vaccine was safe to use. was safe and effective. in this age group.

“Why did it take so long to get approved? They delayed the decision on vaccines, and to me, the message surrounding the delay, people saying the benefits are only modest, has basically given ammunition to those who oppose vaccinating children. “

He said the debate about vaccine-induced heart inflammation in rare instances among predominantly young male recipients of the Pfizer jab has been damaging.

“The biggest concern I have is that my child is developing covid for a long time or experiencing an illness that puts them out of school,” Griffin said.

“Proportionally, yes, they are less likely to get severe, acute illness, but we know that children can become unwell with this virus, we know that over 1,000 under-18s have been hospitalized in the past few months.” Huh.

“We know based on what estimates you look at, anywhere from 2 to 14 percent of babies are developing long-term Covid symptoms for three months or more. For a young life, it is atrocious. But this risk is being mitigated.”

According to the latest research, between 2,000 and 14,000 out of 100,000 children who have recently been absent from school with COVID are expected to develop long-lasting symptoms. If one million children are infected in the coming weeks, then these figures may increase to 20,000 and 140,000, As experts fear It is possible.

As such, Prof Peterson said it is important that the rollout of vaccines among 12 to 15-year-olds be accelerated immediately.

“Hopefully they can do it as quickly as possible,” she said. “It will give better protection and also protect those who have not been infected.”

In the meantime, schools should consider reintroducing some of the COVID measures the government had scrapped before reopening classrooms, said Orla Hegarty, assistant professor of architecture, planning and environmental policy at University College Dublin. .

Denbighshire in Wales is the latest council to ask schools to wear masks and strengthen distancing, while some schools in England have been forced to temporarily close their doors due to the high number of students infected with Covid.

“We can do really effective mitigation in schools, such as masking and air filtration in classrooms, that can reduce the risk of transmission,” Professor Hegarty said.

“In European primary and secondary schools, they have environmental interventions in place with filtration and ventilation policies, reducing overcrowding by hiring more teachers or using larger spaces.

“They still have track and trace policies in place, where the entire class is isolated if one child is positive. If you manage your affairs and work hard early, it doesn’t turn into something bigger and more disruptive for the winter.”

Cumbria’s local authority is another body to take matters into its own hands in response to rising infections among children, advising parents that siblings with confirmed COVID cases will be allowed to stay out of school – even though government guidelines say under-18s do not need to self-isolate if they are close contacts without symptoms.


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