Children

16 and 17 Year-Olds Will Be Able to Get Covid Vaccine Without Parental Consent

Some U.K. vaccination clinics have been giving 16 and 17 year-olds a Covid ‘jab’ in recent weeks, provided they were accompanied by a parent or guardian, but it is now understood that children in this age bracket will not require parental consent when the vaccine roll-out is extended in the coming weeks. MailOnline has the story.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended the 1.4 million youngsters should be offered Pfizer jabs, marking a dramatic U-turn on guidance the same panel issued two weeks ago.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the NHS would dish out invites “as soon as possible”, with the goal of getting the oldest teenagers protected before they return to classrooms in September.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said there was “no time to waste”.

He also laid the groundwork for ministers to expand the inoculation drive to all over-12s in the near future, saying that the JCVI would “continually review” the evidence. …

Pfizer’s vaccine has been linked to a rare side effect called myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle. Data from the U.S., which has been giving the jab to children for months, shows the complication affects one in 100,000 teenage boys after the first dose, but this rises to about one in 15,000 after the second dose.

Officials close to the programme said a child would be able to give consent for the jab if they were able to understand the risks and benefits of any medical treatment. …

Boris Johnson today called on families to listen to the advice from No 10’s top scientists, saying that the committee was “among the best in the world” and that the country should “take our lead from them”.

Professor Van-Tam… told a Downing Street press conference today that the first inoculations for 16 and 17 year-olds would be given “in a very short number of weeks”.

He said: “Children are going to start going back to colleges and sixths forms from September, and in Scotland that will be slightly earlier, so there is no time to waste in getting on with this.” …

More than eight in 10 Britons… support the move, polling suggests, including more than 50% of people who strongly support offering jabs to the younger age groups.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to the ONS, nearly 80% of 16-24 year-olds have Covid antibodies. Why, then, do 16 and 17 year-olds need to be double jabbed? MailOnline has more.

More Than 220,000 Under-18s in England Have Already Been ‘Jabbed’

As the debate on the vaccination of children against Covid hots up, it has been revealed that nearly a quarter of a million under-18s in England have been ‘jabbed’ already. The Evening Standard has the story.

Across the nation 223,755 under-18s have received a first dose, according to NHS data to July 25th.

The figures come as it emerged that the offer of a vaccine is expected to be extended to include all 16 and 17 year-olds.

In June, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi announced that a number of under-18s would be eligible for the jab if they had certain health conditions, lived with someone who is immunocompromised, or were approaching their 18th birthday.

He said at the time that the vaccine experts who advise the Government, the JCVI, did not currently recommend that children should be routinely given the jab, but that the matter was being kept under constant review.

However, the PA news agency has learned that some clinics have already begun vaccinating 16 year-olds at walk-up appointments, provided that they attend with their parent or guardian.

NHS data shows that 79,616 children have had both doses.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: All 16 and 17 year-olds will start being invited to get vaccinated against Covid “in a very short number of weeks indeed”, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, has confirmed.

JCVI Could Recommend Giving 16 and 17 Year-Olds Covid Vaccine “In Days”, Says Nicola Sturgeon

16 and 17 year-olds in the U.K. could soon be called up to get vaccinated against Covid, according to Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish First Minister suggested that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) could offer new advice “in the next few days” on the vaccination of this younger age group. The Guardian has the story.

Just two weeks after the [JCVI] recommended against routine vaccination of children, the Scottish First Minister revealed that she “hoped” over-16s would get the go-ahead to receive it after all.

Two Government sources confirmed that the JCVI was looking again at widening its recommendation for children over 12. Jabs for this age group are currently limited to those who are clinically vulnerable or live with someone at risk.

Anthony Harnden, a member of the committee, said: “JCVI is in the process of finalising updated advice on the offer of vaccination of children and young people.”

Ministers are believed to have been in favour of older children getting access to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, but the JCVI said they should not routinely be available to children who do not have a specific risk factor.

One of the concerns that the scientists raised, linked to the Pfizer jab, was about inflammation around the heart, with the JCVI concluding that the benefits did not outweigh the risk to those who would be receiving the jabs. …

Professor Rowland Kao, a participant in the the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) and an Epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Per capita, older teenagers currently have the highest risk of Covid infection, and vaccinating 16 and 17 year-olds should reduce this.” …

Making a statement to the Scottish parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Sturgeon said she was “hoping” to get the updated advice from the JCVI “over the next day or so”.

During the subsequent question-and-answer session with MSPs, Sturgeon said: “The JCVI are our advisory body so they have to give us the advice they think is right and I respect that. I am hoping it will recommend going further on the vaccination of young people.

“I am particularly concerned if possible to get vaccinations to 16 and 17 year-olds, which is obviously important for those who will be, for example, going to college and university and mingling with older young people who are vaccinated. But we’ll see what that advice brings and we stand ready to implement that as quickly as possible.”

She later said she was hoping and “veering towards expecting” the committee to recommend further vaccination of people in the 12 to 18 year-olds age group, and in particular “hopeful that we will see some updated recommendations in relation, as a priority as a first part of this, for 16 and 17 year-olds”.

Worth reading in full.

Unvaccinated French Pupils Will Be Sent Home if Classmate Tests Positive for Covid

As if plans to separate vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens in France didn’t already go far enough, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has announced that children as young as 12 who have not been vaccinated will be booted out of school if a classmate tests positive for Covid while those who have been ‘jabbed’ will be allowed to stay. Connexion has the story.

Vaccinated students will continue to go to school in person if a Covid case is discovered in their class while unvaccinated students will have to study from home for seven days, Blanquer said [on Wednesday].

The minister was discussing new health rules to be put in place in schools from September.

This rule will apply to students aged 12 and over, who are currently eligible for Covid vaccines. 

Primary schools will follow the same rules as in the last school year, meaning if a Covid case is detected in a class all students in the class will then study from home for seven days. 

However, Mr Blanquer added that he was “fairly sure that there would be less disruption in the coming school year”.

In order to boost vaccination rates among secondary school students 6,000-7,000 vaccination centres will be opened from September “in or next to” schools, the Education Minister added.

Four health scenarios (“Green”, “Yellow”, “Orange” and “Red”) have also been planned for the coming academic year, depending on the health situation.

“In the lightest [Green] scenario there will be no masks in primary schools – but I fear that this will not be the case in September,” Mr Blanquer said.

The Education Ministry website says that, at the Green level, masks would still be required indoors for secondary school pupils in colleges and lycées.

At the Yellow level, primary school children would also have to wear masks indoors, and at the Orange and Red levels students of all ages would have to wear masks indoors and outdoors. …

The Health Ministry rejected the idea of using health passes to allow entry into schools for staff and students who are eligible for vaccines.

It also rejected the idea of making vaccination mandatory for teachers [*]for the moment[*].

Worth reading in full.

Vaccination of 12 Year-Old Australians Likely to Be Given Go-Ahead Within Days

The vaccination of children as young as 12 is likely to be approved by Australian health authorities on Friday despite ongoing debates worldwide on the safety of extending national vaccine roll-outs to children. The approach being considered in England is currently more cautious, with only clinically vulnerable children and those living with vulnerable adults likely to be offered the vaccine – though it is expected that the offer could be extended to all children by the end of the year. The Mail Australia has the story.

Currently, only [Australians] aged 16 or over were recommended to get the jab.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration, which oversees Australia’s medicines and vaccinations, will announce the approval on Friday, the [Australian] Telegraph reported.

For children with underlying health conditions which can make coronavirus more serious, approval to get the vaccine is set to be fast-tracked with it offered to those eligible within days, senior sources say.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the the new vaccination program would aim to “protect children” and was an “important and welcome additional step”.

“Significantly we planned for this outcome and acquired the vaccines in the event of eligibility,” he said. 

The official approval through the ATAGI should take around four weeks, amid a spate of outbreaks within schools in Victoria.

Several New South Wales schools have also been affected during Sydney’s recent outbreak, including South Coogee Public School in the city’s east where at least four children tested positive.

The outbreak forced 555 primary school students into two weeks of isolation after they were deemed close contacts.

Children as young as 12 have already been receiving vaccines in America for several months. …

The huge change to Australia’s vaccine roll-out comes after Scott Morrison apologised for the program not meeting its targets but insists some of the issues were out of his control.

Worth reading in full.

To Isolate, or Not to Isolate: That Is the Question

Figures show that more than one million English pupils were out of school for ‘Covid-related reasons’ last week – 774,000 of these were self-isolating after having come into contact with another pupil at school who tested positive for the virus. In London, a Tube line has been suspended due to staff being told to isolate by the NHS Covid app. Meanwhile, businesses across the country – including Iceland and Greene King – have been forced to shut premises because of what is being termed the “pingdemic”.

There must have been a collective sigh of relief, then, when Business Minister Paul Scully told Times Radio this morning that “it’s up to individuals and employers” whether one should follow self-isolation rules after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app. (Almost half of app users say they would be unlikely to isolate if they tested negative for the virus after being ‘pinged’, according to a recent survey.) But other Government officials were quick to stamp out the claim. The Guardian has more.

Number 10 said employers “should not be encouraging” workers to ignore isolation warnings, even though the app’s instructions are not legally enforceable, unlike contact from NHS Test and Trace which is a legal requirement.

The comments come amid a furious backlash from Conservative MPs over the use of the app which they claim is crippling businesses. The latest figures released by the NHS show more than half a million people were contacted and told to self-isolate between July 1st and July 7th, the highest weekly figure since the app launched.

On Monday Boris Johnson said that critical workers would be exempt, and would be allowed to use regular testing instead provided they are fully vaccinated, with full details expected later on Tuesday.

In comments likely to sow more public concern over the use of the app, Scully told Times Radio: “It’s important to understand the rules. You have to legally isolate if you are… contacted by Test and Trace, or if you’re trying to claim isolation payments.”

But he said there was a different legal basis to the app which he said was “to allow you to make informed decisions”. He added: “And I think by backing out of mandating a lot of things, we’re encouraging people to really get the data in their own hands to be able to make decisions on what’s best for them, whether they’re employer or an employee.”

Scully said people should still use the app to check into venues, which he said had saved an estimated 8,000 lives. “So it’s a really useful tool in our armoury alongside the vaccination programme, but obviously it’s up to individuals and employers,” he said.

“I know how frustrating this is, I had to self-isolate last week myself for over a week, and I know how incredibly mind-numbing it is as well as the impact on the economy and the impact on people’s mental health. So I totally get the frustration.”

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “Isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus. Given the risk of having and spreading the virus when people have been in contact with someone with Covid it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS Covid app.

“Businesses should be supporting employees to isolate, they should not be encouraging them to break isolation.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Even the official Office for National Statistics “Business impact of Covid survey” email has been struck off “due to self-isolating because of Covid”, according to the Spectator.

All U.K. Children Could Be Offered Covid Vaccines by the End of the Year

The Government will announce its plans for the vaccination of children against Covid later today and is expected to say that only clinically vulnerable children and those living with vulnerable adults will be included in the national roll-out – for now. It hasn’t taken long for reports to emerge suggesting that all children could be offered a vaccine by the end of the year. The argument is that it will be difficult to reach herd immunity if children remain unvaccinated. The Telegraph has the story.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to announce that only vulnerable youngsters between the ages of 12 and 15, and 17 year-olds within three months of their 18th birthday, will be offered a jab amid concerns there is too little data on safety and efficacy in young people.

But the JCVI is expected to leave the door open for more children to be vaccinated once trials conclude later this year, the Telegraph understands.

In June, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the Pfizer jab for 12 to 15 year-olds in Britain following early trial results in teenagers, but there is still no data for younger children. 

Pfizer is expected to release results on trials for five to 11 year-olds in September and two to five year-olds by November, with the company expecting regulator approval within a month of releasing positive data. AstraZeneca is also conducting trials in children aged six to 17, with the British team likely to release results before the end of the year.

On Sunday, experts warned that it may be difficult to reach herd immunity in Britain if children are not vaccinated. Nearly one in five people in the U.K. are under 16 and, despite everyone being offered a vaccine, around 12% of adults have not had a first jab.

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College, a member of SAGE, told the BBC: “In the absence of vaccinating it’s inevitable that we’re going to have very high numbers of cases in teenagers, and we will not be able to reach herd immunity without significant immunity in people under 18.”

The JCVI is expected to keep the situation under review and will be watching the results from trials closely. 

Scientists are particularly concerned that vaccination may damage the developing immune system of younger children. Different age groups may require different doses, further complicating the roll-out, and companies must show it will not make children who get Covid more ill – which has happened with other vaccines in the past. 

Experts are also worried that the benefits to children may not outweigh the risks, making vaccination ethically dubious and leaving the Government vulnerable to legal challenges.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Government will continue to be guided by the advice of the JCVI, and no decisions have been made by ministers on whether people aged 12 to 17 should be routinely offered Covid vaccines.”

Worth reading in full.

Police Arrive at House in Riot Van to Check 12 Year-Old Girl Is Self-Isolating

A Manchester mother is demanding an apology from the local police force for sending officers in a riot van to check that her 12 year-old daughter was self-isolating. The young girl was left “petrified” after officers shouted through the house to see if she had been following the rules, according to her mother. The home was visited twice, leading the girl to believe “she was going to get arrested at any moment”. The MailOnline has the story.

Officers visited the home of Kathryn Crook in Middleton, Greater Manchester, to check that Charlotte, 12, was adhering to Covid guidance after catching the virus.

Ms Crook, 45, says her daughter was terrified by the experience, alleging the behaviour of Rochdale Public Health Officers and Greater Manchester Police was “inappropriate and heavy-handed”.

She is now urging those involved to apologise for what she says was “overkill”.

Officers first visited the family home on July 11th and asked to speak directly to Charlotte, before quizzing her mother on whether she was self-isolating.

Ms Crook said: “They would not tell me and my husband why they wanted to speak to my daughter.     

“I suggested again that she was only 12 and as her mother, I should be the one they should speak to.

“My daughter by this time was stood behind me crouching thinking she had done something wrong and was petrified.

“The female police officer who stood at our door then proceeded to shout through to my daughter to check she had been isolating.

“I spent Monday trying to find out why this had happened only to be told by Rochdale Public Health Department that they had authorised this to happen.”

The furious mother later wrote to her MP Chris Clarkson to express her concern, and his office is now investigating the incident.  

She added: “During Monday we also received a letter addressed to our daughter from Rochdale council stating that she must get in touch with them as a matter of urgency about her isolating.

“I called the phone line and they said it was standard practice, even though the leaflet read as if aimed at an adult. I was also told the person who had signed it no longer works there.”

Ms Crook says the family then received another visit from GMP on June 12th.

“We settled down and just after 9pm got a knock at the door,” she said.

“It was the police again, this time in a riot van and coming to ‘check’ again that my daughter was isolating. 

“Me and my husband were so annoyed by this. The neighbours had also seen all of this and came out to show their support for us.

“They could see what had happened and a riot van in the street is a bit much. This time, however, the policeman was polite and was much more forthcoming than the two that had been the previous night. 

“It was terribly upsetting again for my daughter and she had another meltdown again thinking the police were going to arrest her.”

Worth reading in full.

Infections Decline in the Unvaccinated as They Surge in the Vaccinated – Demolishing the Argument for Vaccinating Children and Young People

I reported last week on the striking fact that, according to data from the ZOE Covid Symptom study, new symptomatic daily infections appeared to be plateauing in the unvaccinated while they were surging in the vaccinated. The trend has continued since then, with infections now entering decline in the unvaccinated while those in the vaccinated (with at least one dose) continue to surge (see graph above).

Around 67% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, so the fact that there are still more infections in the smaller unvaccinated group means no conclusion can be drawn from the current figures about the vaccines not being effective. Also, while more people are being vaccinated all the time, that steady trend is nowhere near large enough to account for the sharp changes in infection incidence we see here.

With infections in the unvaccinated already peaking and falling, despite the Delta variant, this drives a coach and horses through arguments for the supposed importance of vaccinating children and hesitant young people – including through inducements like vaccine passports for pubs, clubs and restaurants, now being mooted for the autumn.

Why the vaccinated are having their Delta surge later than the unvaccinated is an interesting question. Is it because the vaccines make them more resistant to infection? Does the age difference help explain it? Or is it something else?

Whatever the explanation, the important point is that without any new restrictions or a big new vaccine push, infections in the unvaccinated are already falling. In the current climate of pushes to extend restrictions, delay ‘Freedom Day’, and vaccinate everyone whether they want it or not, this is hugely significant. It means all those arguments to continue restrictions and pile on the pressure for vaccination because of the Delta variant are complete nonsense.

That new daily infections are still rising in the population as a whole is now because they are rising among the vaccinated, not the unvaccinated. They will likely peak soon in the vaccinated, too, just as they already have in Scotland.

New daily positive cases in Scotland (HMG)

It seems that Delta has done its strange summer thing and will soon exhaust itself like the variants before it.

When it does, is there any chance we can stop panicking every time this not-very-deadly virus has a little variant-driven ripple and go back to living as free people again?

Just 25 Under-18s Died From Covid in England Up Until February, New Data Shows – Figures Much Higher for Suicide and Trauma

As the Government assesses the pros and cons of vaccinating children, new data has revealed that just 25 under-18s in England died from the virus between March 2020 and February 2021. This equates to an absolute risk of one in 481,000. In the same period, 124 children died from suicide and 268 died from trauma. The researchers conclude that lockdown “may prove a greater risk than… SARS-CoV-2 itself”. The MailOnline has the story.

Young people with pre-existing medical conditions, like heart disease and cancer, and severe disability, which can include cerebral palsy and autism, have a higher chance of becoming seriously ill from the virus.

But the scientists – from three top British universities – said this risk is no higher than the risk from flu.

Teenagers, black and obese children were also at higher risk from dying with Covid but these numbers were still very low, they found. 

Researchers said their findings – which were published in three separate papers today – will help inform vaccine and shielding policy for under-18s.

They will submit the studies to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Department for Health and the World Health Organisation. …

The studies were led by researchers at University College London, the University of York and the University of Liverpool.

One of the studies is the first to determine the number of children who died from Covid rather than with the virus. It concluded that the virus killed 25 children in England. 

The coronavirus contributed to 0.8% of the 3,105 deaths in children from all causes in the first year of the pandemic. 

During the same period, 124 children died from suicide, while 268 died from trauma, showing that Covid “is rarely fatal” in children, the researchers said.

They found the under-18s who died were more likely to be teenagers than younger children, showing that the risk from the virus increases with age.

Higher proportions of Asian and black children died from the virus but these deaths were “still extremely rare”, they said. 

More than 75% of the children who died had chronic conditions, while two-thirds had more than one underlying condition and 60% had life-limiting conditions.

Six of the children who died were not recorded as having an underlying health problem, but the scientists said they may have had undiagnosed illnesses. 

The paper states that the “extremely low” risk of death means removing children from their normal activities like school and social events “may prove a greater risk than that of SARS-CoV-2 itself”. 

A second study found that 251 young people in England were admitted to intensive care with Covid from March 2020 to February this year, which equates to around a one in 50,000 risk.

Of these patients, 91% had one or more underlying health conditions. 

They also found one in 2,000 were admitted to hospital with Covid, equating to almost 6,000 children. …

A third study, which was led by Dr Rachel Harwood at the University of Liverpool, supported the findings of the other papers.

The researchers found that of the children admitted to hospital with Covid, those at the highest risk of severe illness or death are teenagers, have heart or brain conditions, two or more underlying condition, or are obese.

Worth reading in full.