Children

Pre-School Tyranny

There follows a guest post by a Daily Sceptic reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, about the borderline child abuse they have witnessed being inflicted on children at their child’s nursery owing to the over-zealous application of Covid rules and guidelines. If readers have other stories of the mistreatment of children under Covid rules and guidelines email us here.

Parents with children in nursery care have suffered tremendously with the pandemic. Here is our experience of nurseries in Norfolk. In the first lockdown we were expected to look after our two year old whilst undertaking two full time jobs at home. This was obviously very hard and meant working evenings and weekends to catchup on day jobs. Initially our nursery tried to charge full price for not doing anything. They backed down when they realised they could furlough staff. A discount was given.

In the January 2021 lockdown, with no notice, they reduced the school day by several hours and removed all meals. We had less than 12 hours notice and no reduction in fees. We know from staff at the nursery that they were furloughing staff so that they profited from providing less care.

Needless to say we moved nursery to a better one that provided a better service.

In general we have been happy with the new nursery, however, the Covid idiocy is getting worse.

Even in the summer, parents have to wear masks when they drop their children off outside. I am pretty much the only parent not to do this as it’s clearly stupid and not good for my son to see me masked.

Last week, with less than a day’s notice, we were asked to do a lateral flow test on children (all under-fives). It was worded as a request, but at drop off, it was insisted upon, and if you didn’t have evidence toddlers and babies were swabbed at the door.

End Covid Vaccination of Children Because the Risks Outweigh the Benefits, Government Told By MPs and Scientists

The risks of vaccinating children against Covid now clearly outweigh the benefits, the Government has been told by a group of MPs and scientists.

In an open letter to the Government’s vaccination advisory committee – the JCVI – the MPs including Miriam Cates, Esther McVey and Sir Desmond Swayne and scientists including Professor Allyson Pollock, Dr Roland Salmon and Professor Brent Taylor write that “the risk to benefit ratio for child Covid vaccination has worsened since September”.

They continue:

The risks of adverse events (including but not limited to myocarditis) increase as more doses are given, and any advantages are reduced as vaccine effectiveness in suppressing Omicron transmission decreases (especially given widespread natural immunity). Given that any potential benefits of vaccinating children were calculated to be marginal at best in the first place, we suspect that this margin has not only evaporated but actually reversed in light of the characteristics of the new and dominant Omicron variant and the increase in robust and durable naturally-acquired immunity. …

Unlike the elderly and clinically vulnerable population – for whom the potentially life-saving benefits of vaccination substantially outweigh any risks from vaccination – our children face no such threat from COVID-19 yet have 50 or more years of healthy life expectancy ahead of them that could be compromised by long-term vaccine harms. It is crucial that, if we are to proceed with the mass double vaccination of healthy children, we are absolutely certain that this policy will do more good than harm. Furthermore, we need to give consideration to what precedent is being set for triple or even continuous and regular vaccination for this age group.

We believe that the benefit to risk ratio of child vaccination should be reassessed in light of the Omicron variant and new evidence on both vaccine harms and superior natural immunity. We urge the JCVI to review this new evidence and provide updated advice to the Government with regards to the mass vaccination of healthy 12-15 year olds.

Brent Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Community Child Health at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and formerly a JCVI member for eight years, said: 

Hospital Admissions of Children With Eating Disorders Surge 70% Since Pandemic

The number of children being admitted to hospital with an eating disorder has surged almost 70% since the pandemic began, according to official figures, with psychiatrists warning they are being overwhelmed by the numbers needing help. The Telegraph has the story.

Experts said repeated lockdowns and periods of isolation had caused “devastating” effects on children’s mental health, fuelling a sharp rise in anorexia and bulimia. They said such uncertainty had left many children feeling they had lost control of their lives – a factor which can provoke eating disorders.

Charities warned that those admitted to hospital were only the “tip of the iceberg” as the vast majority of those suffering eating disorders do not receive care as an inpatient.

The NHS provisional data show 4,238 hospital admissions for children aged 17 and under between April and October last year. The figure is a 69% rise compared with the same months before the pandemic, when there were just 2,508 admissions.

Overall, the data show there were 23,302 admissions for eating disorders among all age groups in the financial year 2020/21, up 21% on the 19,244 admissions among all age groups recorded in 2018/19.

Provisional data for April to October 2021 show there were 15,941 admissions so far among all age groups, suggesting 2021/22 will be the highest year yet for those of all ages.

Dr Agnes Ayton, the chairman of the eating disorders faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The hidden epidemic of eating disorders has surged during the pandemic with many community services now over-stretched and unable to treat the sheer number of people needing help.

“We are at the point where we cannot afford to let this go on any longer.”

Worth reading in full.

Canadian Study Shows Online Learning Increases the Risk of Depression and Anxiety in Children

Researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada have found that online learning dramatically increases the likelihood that a child will suffer from psychiatric issues such as anxiety or depression. Their study also found that the more time a child spent in front of a screen and the less time spent with others due to lockdowns has caused an increase in mental and behavioural problems for young people. MailOnline has more.

Learning online, rather than in a classroom, comes with an increased risk of depression and anxiety for older schoolchildren, according to a new study. 

Researchers analysed parent-reported mental health outcomes for more than 2,000 school-age children living in Canada at the time of the Covid outbreak.

For the study, the experts, from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, explored links between different types of screen use and mental health.

They found that there was a clear link between parent-reported anxiety and depression in older children, who were having to use a screen for education. 

“These findings suggest that policy intervention, as well as evidence-informed social supports, may be required to promote healthful screen use and mental health in children and youth during the pandemic and beyond,” the team wrote.

The scientists behind the study also found that increased TV watching and gaming in younger children during the outbreak led to higher levels of depression, anxiety, behavioural problems and hyperactivity. 

There was no increased risk of these conditions in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, according to the experts.

They say this could be due to their already higher level of screen use, and lower level of social interaction. 

“The Covid pandemic has resulted in major changes in the daily routines of children,” the researchers said.

This was “primarily because of the imposed public health measures related to distancing, isolation, and school closures”, the team explained.

The amount of time children and young people spent on screens increased dramatically, through television, gaming, video chat and online learning. 

To understand what impact this could have had on the mental health of young people, researchers examined a number of cohort studies.   

This study included 2,026 children with an average age of 6 and roughly split evenly between male and female participants.

Higher TV or digital media time, including gaming, was linked to higher levels of behavioural problems and hyperactivity in children aged two to four years-old, they discovered.

In older children and youth, with an average age of 11 years-old, watching more TV and gaming was linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety and inattention. 

Worth reading in full.

Boris Calls For Vaccination of Children to Keep Schools Open – But Why When Almost All of Them Have Had the Virus?

Boris Johnson yesterday called for all children to be vaccinated in order to keep schools open. He told a Downing Street press conference: “We know how crucial it is to keep children in school, so let’s all make sure our children and young people are vaccinated before they go back next term.”

But why is this a good idea when most schoolchildren have had the virus already and have natural immunity? According to the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, nearly half of children in England under 15 caught the virus between the beginning of September and mid-October, bringing the total infected at that point to 76%, with more having caught it since. These estimates, while modelled, are also broadly in line with ONS Infection Survey estimates, which show a large outbreak in schoolchildren this autumn.

Noah Carl has highlighted three recent large studies which show that immunity via infection is much stronger and more durable than immunity via vaccination. In the chart below from a Danish study, the green line is protection over time from vaccine only, the orange line is from infection only and the yellow line is from infection plus vaccine.

As the Autumn Covid Surge Declines, is SAGE Right to Predict No Winter Epidemic?

As reported daily infections fall once again, giving a temporary reprieve from calls for social restrictions to be re-imposed, the new ONS Infection Survey data published today shows record levels of prevalence in the country in the two weeks ending October 22nd.

One in 50 people in England or 2% of the population are estimated to have had coronavirus during that fortnight. In Wales it was around 2.5% or one in 40.

Importantly, this recent epidemic is almost exclusively in children, especially those aged 11-16, and to a lesser extent in their parents (aged 35-49). Prevalence in primary school children rose to around 4.1% by October 22nd while in secondary school children it was 9.1% or one in 11.

Since then reported infections in children have begun to fall, leading some experts to declare that, with an estimated 75% of the cohort now having been infected, “England has seen the peak of cases in children“.

Modelling for the Government is now predicting a persisting slump in infections going into the winter, with some estimates envisaging as few as 5,000 daily reported infections by Christmas.

This puts me in the unexpected position of being more pessimistic than SAGE, as I would be frankly amazed if there was no winter surge in Covid infections. We’ve seen before how SAGE models seem not to take sufficient account of seasonality, and this may be another example of that.

More than a Million School Children in England Alone Face Heightened Covid Restrictions

19 months on from the beginning of the pandemic and schools in England are still far from normal. Some have switched to remote learning ahead of the October half-term due to concerns about increasing ‘cases’ and now, 17 local authorities are insisting that stricter measures should be (re)introduced, affecting 1,098,349 pupils at 3,250 schools. The Telegraph has the story.

Councils across the country have reintroduced face masks, bubbles and staggered break times and stepped up self-isolation rules for youngsters. …

Headteachers have been told by ministers that many of the restrictions in place in the last academic year are no longer necessary. However, as cases rise in schools, local public health teams are increasingly encouraging schools to ramp up their measures. …

Nine Maidens Academy, in Cornwall, moved to remote learning at the start of the week, while Admiral Lord Nelson School in Portsmouth closed its doors on Thursday owing to a “rapid” rise in cases.

A dozen councils are advising secondary pupils in their area to wear masks in communal areas at school, and several have introduced more stringent self-isolation rules for children.

This week, Walsall Council advised primary schools to reintroduce bubbles and staggered lunch breaks, and moved all ‘non-essential’ events online. Windsor Council has also told schools to avoid mixing classes or year groups and to cancel assemblies.

Union leaders have repeatedly called for more restrictions in schools, with Kevin Courtney, the Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, claiming the Government’s failure to introduce stricter rules such as face masks is “irresponsible”.

The National Association of Headteachers has urged ministers to bring back rules that would see healthy children kept at home if a sibling tests positive.

But ministers have been warned that parents are “despairing” and their patience with the Government has “worn out”.

Molly Kingsley, a Co-Founder of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said: “Children have been disproportionately burdened by these pandemic restrictions for too long. Now adults are back to normal and the Government ought to be worried about the detrimental impact this is having on children. Parents are really despairing about this.”

Government guidelines say children should only self-isolate if they are showing symptoms or have a positive PCR test result. But councils including Calderdale, Cheshire East and Suffolk have brought back self-isolation rules for children if a sibling or other member of their household has tested positive.

Meanwhile, other councils say children need to self-isolate for three to five days if a family member has Covid, then take a PCR test and only return to school if it is negative. 

Worth reading in full.

Child Vaccination Rates as Low as 3.5% In Areas of England

Covid vaccines have been available for young English teenagers for almost a month but take-up rates are as low as 3.5%. Wokingham has jabbed the highest proportion of 12-15 year-olds in the country (just over 36%) but the figure for the whole of England (15%) lags far behind that of Scotland. MailOnline has the story.

The picture is very different in Scotland, where the rate stands at around 46.5%, with some areas of the country jabbing almost two thirds of their young teens.

The figures come off the back of rising concerns about a surge in coronavirus cases among young teens in England.

Random swabbing data suggests around 8% of secondary school pupils were carrying the virus last week. Separate figures show infection rates in children have reached record highs. …

First doses of Covid vaccine started being rolled out to all the UK’s 3.2 million 12-15 year-olds on September 20th.

But the move was controversial, with concerns over a very rare risk of heart inflammation called myocarditis, estimated to affect 3-17 per million children under the age of 16 after their first Covid jab.

This risk increases to 12-24 per million children when they receive a second dose of the vaccine.

While in most cases the condition is mild, scientists do not know the long term implications. …

More than a third of England’s 149 upper tier local authorities (55) have vaccinated fewer than one in 10 young teens.

The three worst areas for England and the U.K. are in London.

Worth reading in full.

Walk-in Vaccine Clinics to Open for 12-15 Year-Olds in England in Effort to Boost Slow Roll-Out

Following a fairly unsuccessful start to the roll-out of Covid vaccines to healthy 12-15 year-olds, the Government has announced that walk-in vaccine clinics will open for this age group in the coming weeks. The Guardian has the story.

Older teenagers in England can already attend walk-in clinics to receive their first dose of Covid vaccine, with 56.5% of 16-18 year-olds now vaccinated. The expansion of the scheme to younger teenagers would bring England into line with Scotland, where 12-15 year-olds can also attend walk-in clinics. …

Ministers are planning to expand walk-in vaccination appointments to younger teenagers amid concerns that the Government has been too slow rolling out the vaccine programme in English schools, the Mail on Sunday reported. …

Professor Kevin McConway, an Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics at the Open University, said the latest [Covid test] results in secondary school-age children were “concerning”. “However you look at it, this is a huge increase, and it clearly follows from schools having reopened and, crucially, from vaccination rates of children in that age group still being low,” he said.

The Government had set half-term as a target for what ministers had hoped would be a speedy roll-out in schools, but with less than a week to go, it is looks increasingly unlikely that that target will be met.

Some parents have told the Guardian that their children haven’t been offered a vaccination appointment until November. There are also reports of sessions being cancelled at the last minute and “poorly prepared” vaccination teams overwhelmed by demand having to leave sites after vaccinating just a fraction of pupils with consent.

Worth reading in full.

More than Half of English Schools Will Fail to Host Covid Vaccinations by Government’s Target Date

However keen the Government is to quickly get healthy children vaccinated against Covid, more than half of schools in England will fail to host Covid vaccinations by its target date, according to a new survey of headteachers. The Guardian has the story.

A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders [ASCL] found that only two out of every five secondary schools will have had a visit from vaccination teams by the October half-term break.

The survey also revealed that 95% of headteachers said teaching has been affected by pupil and staff absences, with nearly a third rating the impact as severe. 93 school leaders reported pupil absences of 10% or higher, while 63 schools said 10% or more of their staff were absent for Covid-related seasons. [sic] …

[ASCL’s General Secretary Geoff] Barton… said an “additional difficulty” for schools was having to deal with anti-vaccination protesters. 13% of the 526 eligible schools reported seeing protesters outside their school.

“This is at best incredibly unhelpful, and at worst very distressing, and we appeal to those concerned to see sense and stop this nonsense,” Barton added.

The Department for Education has said that in schools that have been visited, uptake rates were around 35% of pupils.

Worth reading in full.