Vaccine

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

As the debate on the vaccination of children against Covid hots up, with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) expected to advise that 16 and 17 year-olds should be vaccinated “in the next few days“, 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.

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.

Preg-CoV: New Trial to Study Potential Side-Effects of Covid Vaccination on Pregnant Women on Babies

A new clinical trial based in the U.K. will seek to determine the most suitable gap between the first and second Covid vaccine jabs for pregnant women, as well as the potential side effects on their unborn children. Those running the trial hope it will make pregnant women feel more comfortable about getting vaccinated. The Guardian has the story.

Last week, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, urged expectant mothers to get vaccinated as soon as possible, with evidence suggesting the Delta variant poses a significantly greater risk to pregnant women than previous forms of the virus.

A clinical trial called Preg-CoV has been launched to help determine the best gap between doses for pregnant women as well as exploring in greater detail potential side-effects and the impact on babies – something the researchers hope will offer reassurance. …

Asma Khalil, Lead Obstetrician for the trial and Professor of Obstetrics and Maternal Fetal Medicine at St George’s, said that while the U.K. Covid vaccination programme had been a success, uptake has been low among pregnant women.

According to research in her own hospital, “among pregnant women who’ve given birth between March this year until beginning of July, less than one third – 28% – of women who were eligible according to the guidance actually received [at least one dose of] the Covid vaccine” during pregnancy, said Khalil. …

“Pregnant women are still concerned because pregnant women were not included in initial Covid vaccine trials,” said Khalil.

In the first phase of the Preg-CoV trial, the team hope to recruit 600 pregnant women, aged between 18 and 44, from 13 sites across England.

Two groups of 200 unvaccinated pregnant women at different gestation times will be randomised both with respect to whether they receive a Moderna or Pfizer/Biontech jab and to whether they are given their second dose four to six weeks or at eight-12 weeks after the first dose. 

Participants will not know which Covid jab they are given… while a routine vaccination to protect against whooping cough will also be included in the schedule so that participants are not aware which dosing regime they are following.

A third group of about 100 pregnant women will be given one dose of a Covid jab at 28-34 weeks gestation, with the second dose of the same vaccine given after delivery, while the fourth group of 100 women will already have had their first dose of any Covid jab before or very early in pregnancy and will get the second dose of the same vaccine.

All the women will have follow-up visits and blood tests, and fill in an electronic diary to help the researchers monitor any potential vaccine side-effects. The team will also track outcomes for the babies up to 12 months of age to explore safety and impact on their development. …

“I think there will be some lessons learned from this pandemic,” said Khalil. “And one of them is that we should consider including pregnant woman at a relatively early stage for vaccine trials.”

Worth reading in full.

Unvaccinated Australians Will Be Barred From Major Sporting Events

Australians will soon need to have proof of full vaccination to visit major sporting venues as state premiers prepare the ground for the introduction of vaccine passports. The Premier of New South Wales said in a press conference on Monday: “Any incentives we can provide to encourage people to get vaccinated and stick to the health restrictions, that is our priority.” Mail Australia has the story.

Plans are already underway to make vaccine passports mandatory in New South Wales while a similar approach is being considered in Victoria.

Fans will need to have both Covid jabs to visit a stadium and watch big sporting events like the NRL, AFL, or cricket.

Venues NSW Chairman Tony Shepherd will put forward his proposal to the State Government in the next few weeks and hopes they will be approved by next year. 

“If you choose not to have the jab that is your civil right in a free country but the Delta strain is extremely transmissible and we need to do something to reopen our stadiums,” he told the Daily Telegraph

“The venues will have to say you can’t attend. Simple as that.” …

[Victoria] Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference on July 21st that officials would make an “informed discussion” about reopening games to vaccinated residents.

“[The vaccine] will be here September, October, November… then I think we can have an informed discussion and say: ‘Right, we’re at X%, here’s all the benefits that might flow from that’,” he said. 

The Premier said vaccinated fans being able to attend games would be part of a wider attempt to incentivise people to get the jab.

Worth reading in full.

Slowing Vaccine Take-Up Means 170,000 Moderna Doses at Risk of Expiry

The NHS is looking to redistribute thousands of Covid vaccine doses as slowing take-up rates among young Britons, who don’t appear to be moved by petty bribes, could result in doses being thrown away after reaching their expiry dates. The Guardian has the story.

An internal email seen by the Guardian warned of 170,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine at risk of expiry within the next fortnight, as doctors across England have raised alarm at the unpredictability of vaccine take-up among young people meaning more doses will go to waste.

The Government is to unveil a raft of new initiatives to increase vaccine uptake among young people, including discounts on car-hailing companies such as Uber and Bolt, as well as the delivery service Deliveroo.

It is understood the NHS has managed to redistribute 40,000 of the spare Moderna jabs. However, concerns have been raised about the number of jabs wasted as uptake slows among younger people eligible for the Moderna and Pfizer jabs.

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses, initially as a way to offer more people first doses because of limited supply, but studies have since shown that the larger gap could give longer protection.

One NHS doctor in the north-east, Dr Alison George, said colleagues had been forced to routinely discard Pfizer doses, rather than give second shots early to people who requested them. “We have very high rates of infection here and the local hospital is already under significant pressure with some elective surgery cancelled,” the GP said. …

Beccy Baird, a Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said it was getting more difficult to predict vaccine uptake.

“Uptake is getting lower as the cohorts get younger and matching the supply of vaccines to demand will get harder as demand becomes less predictable. This is made all the harder as the vaccines have a limited shelf life,” she said. …

“In the early stages of the rollout, you could be confident that wherever vaccines were delivered there would be sufficient demand for them. Now that a majority of adults have been vaccinated, and with uptake getting lower as the cohorts become younger, demand for the vaccine is more unpredictable, making it harder to know exactly where the doses are needed.” …

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now mostly distributed to the under-40s, who cannot receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Those vaccines have a shorter shelf life of up to one month in the fridge, compared with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which can last for up to six months.

Worth reading in full.

Tens of Millions of Brits Will Be Offered Pfizer Booster Vaccine This Autumn

Millions of Brits, including the over-50s, people who are vulnerable, and NHS staff, will be offered a Pfizer booster vaccine this Autumn, even if their first two doses were from a different provider. MailOnline has the story.

Extra vaccines would be rolled out in two stages – prioritising those most at risk of Covid, before the programme is extended.

While patients were initially expected to be offered the jab they were originally inoculated with, it is understood all patients will be offered the Pfizer jab as it has proven to be the most effective against the Delta variant.

The Department of Health has yet to confirm the official details of the booster scheme, plans of which were first shared by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in June.

The JCVI is expected to issue its final advice in regards to the booster scheme in the coming months. 

A senior Government source also told the Times that those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine would “be getting an mRNA booster”. …

A U.K. Government-backed study published earlier this year found that mixing and matching Covid vaccines may result in higher protection against the virus.

People who had been vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s jab initially and then received a top-up with Pfizer’s had nine times more antibodies than those who stuck to the U.K. vaccine. …

The Government said analysis has shown that the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against the Delta variant while the AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation after two doses.

A study published this week also showed that a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine could offer strong protection against the Delta variant.

Worth reading in full.

Andrew Bridgen MP Criticises Government Over “Serious Infringement on People’s Liberties” Threatened by Vaccine Passports

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen says vaccine passports represent a “serious infringement on people’s liberties” and that he doesn’t believe they will actually be introduced. He told LBC radio that, if the Government is serious about its plans, Parliament should be recalled so as to allow for proper scrutiny. He is quoted in the Guardian:

This is a very serious infringement on people’s liberties, it is basically unprecedented in this country, and I and a number of colleagues would oppose it.

I think it is a very blunt instrument, to threaten people with domestic Covid passports. I personally don’t think it would get through the House of Commons in any event and that’s why the Government has moved on to this ‘carrot’ inducements for young people.

Bridgen, an ally of Boris Johnson during the Brexit campaign, accused the Government of “trying to aggressively coerce these young people” into getting vaccinated but said plans would not pass through the House of Commons. He did, however, concede that the Government could introduce vaccine passports by other means. He told LBC:

If [the Government] uses the emergency powers, they probably could argue with lawyers that they could bring [vaccine passports] in without having a vote in the House of Commons. But I think that is a step far too far for Boris Johnson and this Government. …

If we can’t get out of this pandemic with our levels of vaccination and antibodies, there is very little chance for the rest of the world. They will be all watching what we do in the U.K. and I think going to domestic vaccine passports would be an authoritarian step far too far.

His comments follow criticism from within the Cabinet of plans to introduce vaccine passports, with one member saying: “It’s not who we are.”

Boris Johnson Faces Rebellion on Vaccine Passports From Within Cabinet

The number of Tory MPs who say they will vote against the Government on vaccine passports has increased slightly to more than 50. Even more encouraging is that criticism of Boris Johnson’s plans is coming from within Cabinet, with one member saying: “It’s not who we are.” MailOnline has the story.

Mr Johnson is facing a fresh headache, with some of the opposition [to vaccine passports] reported to be coming from ministers in his own Cabinet, who believe the policy was “railroaded” through by Michael Gove.

One told the Times: “I’m not comfortable with the Government being able to use health information to cut off access to certain parts of society.

“This is the kind of thing that Dominic Cummings would endorse. It’s not who we are. Once you start doing these things where do you stop? We need to tread very carefully here. There are concerns across the cabinet about denying people their freedoms.’

Another added: “My concern is that this is destabilising the party. A carrot approach is far better than a stick approach. We shouldn’t be taking people’s liberties away, we should be encouraging them.”

Dominic Raab and Grant Shapps are among the senior members of the cabinet to praise businesses who have not allowed unvaccinated staff to return to the office, amid concerns the Government is encouraging a ‘jabs for jobs’ policy.

Experts have warned companies doing so may face legal action, with fears of a host of discrimination claims sparking calls for ministers to outlaw such policies. 

A worker who is forced to have a jab would be suffering an “intrusion” on their body, advice from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development claims.

As a result, firms “cannot forcibly vaccinate employees or potential employees” unless legally required to do so, according to the group, which represents HR professionals.

Care home staff is the only sector that so far is subject to mandatory Covid jabs, although reports suggest the Government has been looking in other areas too. …

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also advised against blanket ‘No Jab, No Job’ policies, according to the Sun, particularly given medical reasons prevent some people from getting the vaccine.

But huge firms in the U.S., including Facebook and Google, have already insisted employees must probe [sic] they’ve received doses before going back to work.

Worth reading in full.

Plans to Bar Unvaccinated University Students From Lectures and Halls Shelved

Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told university students they would have to wait until September to find out whether they would be required to show proof of vaccination to attend lectures and to live in halls. But the plans, which have received heavy criticism from the University and College Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS), have now been shelved, according to reports. BBC News has the story.

The idea of making vaccines compulsory for university students… was not ruled out by either Education Minister Vicky Ford or Downing Street when asked about it earlier this week.

And asked whether vaccination would be mandatory for students returning to halls of residence, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said a decision would be taken in September. 

“We will certainly make sure university students have advance warning, of course we’re going to be mindful of this,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

But now the idea of requiring students in England to show proof of vaccination to attend lectures or stay in halls of residence has been shelved, the BBC has been told.

The Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in charge of their own coronavirus rules and education policy. 

Unions have been critical of making vaccines mandatory for university students. 

The UCU previously said this would be wrong and “hugely discriminatory against those who are unable to be vaccinated” as well as for international students. 

And the NUS had called the idea “appalling”, accusing the Government of “lining students up as scapegoats”. …

From the end of September, ministers have said people will need proof of full vaccination to attend nightclubs and other crowded venues in England. 

The full details of the plan are yet to be seen but an NHS Covid Pass – which you can obtain electronically or as a letter – will be used as proof.

Worth reading in full.

Pop-Up Vaccine Clinics Opening at Festivals to Persuade Young Brits to Get ‘Jabbed’

Music festivals, football stadiums and circuses are among the venues encouraging attendees to get a Covid vaccine at pop-up clinics in an attempt to combat lower vaccination rates among the young. BBC News has the story.

Spectators and passers-by at the Circus Extreme in Halifax were being offered a jab outside a tent of jugglers, acrobats and stunt performers.

John Haze, Circus Director, said: “It may not be the normal thing you expect to see when you enter the Circus Extreme Big Top, but we are really proud to be supporting the NHS Covid vaccination programme.

“We had no hesitation in letting the NHS host a walk-in clinic in the tent so that more people can get their jab at a convenient time, and we hope lots [of] people will take up this offer.”

Two festivals in London hosting walk-in clinics include a bus parked at the Summer of Love Festival in Holland Park and a four-day vaccine event with live music in Poplar. 

Burnley FC in Lancashire and the Goodwood Racecourse in West Sussex, which is hosting the Stewards Cup, were among other venues being used in the vaccine push with football fans being offered Pfizer doses.

GP Dr Nikki Kanani, Deputy Lead for NHS England’s vaccination programme, said more than 2,000 sites had already taken part, including Thorpe Park in Surrey. …

She said more than 70 million doses had been delivered with “87% of adults having had at least one dose, and seven in 10 now fully-vaccinated”.

But the latest figures show nearly a third of young adults aged 18 to 29 in the country have still not had one jab.

Judging from the poor response to the offer of free food alongside a ‘jab’ by a vaccine clinic at an East London festival this weekend, this form of “coaxing” isn’t working very well. “Vegan burgers, mac ’n cheese and Chinese dumplings were enough to tempt [one unvaccinated festival-goer], but others who are unvaccinated were not taking the bait,” the Sun reports.

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.