Get ready to vaccinate kids as young as 12, Sajid Javid tells NHS bosses, after Sage warned of ‘large’ Covid wave when schools go back
- Mr Javid wants country to be ‘ready to hit ground running’ if JCVI gives go ahead to jab younger children
- NHS has been told to start recruiting staff to go into schools to give pupils Covid jabs early next term
- Headteachers will be told to prepare space in schools where the vaccines can be given
The Health Secretary said he was putting plans in place so the country was ‘ready to hit the ground running’ if the JCVI – the Government’s independent advisers – gave the go-ahead to jab younger children.
The NHS has been told to start recruiting and training staff to go into schools to give pupils Covid jabs early next term, if they’re approved.
Headteachers will be told to prepare space where the vaccines can be given or be ready to allow pupils time out of lessons to get the jab elsewhere.
It is the clearest signal yet that ministers expect the jab for younger children to be approved imminently.
Sajid Javid last night told the NHS to start preparing to jab children as young as 12 as Sage committee scientists warned a ‘large’ Covid wave was likely to hit schools next month
The Health Secretary said he was putting plans in place so the country was ‘ready to hit the ground running’ if the JCVI – the Government’s independent advisers – gave the go-ahead to jab younger children
It came as experts warned the Government to plan for a surge in infections at the end of September, following the return of children from the summer holidays.
Their fears were detailed in a document from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O).
Its advisers said it was highly likely there would be an exponential increase in infections among school-aged children after classes returned.
And they noted that measures in place before the new term, such as bubbles and stricter rules on isolating, would no longer apply.
Mr Javid said it was important for the NHS and schools to be prepared.
He added: ‘While I await updated advice from JCVI on the 12-15 cohort, I have asked the NHS to make preparations – should they be needed – to roll out the vaccine to this group.’
The Department of Health stressed parental consent will be sought before vaccinating children, although it is unclear if children can overrule their parents.
It also emerged last night that secondary school and college pupils will need to wear face masks in communal areas outside of their classrooms in areas of the south-west of England, as extra support was pledged in response to a rise in coronavirus cases.
The Department of Health and Social Care said that from Friday Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay local authority areas – which have seen a rise in cases – will get help to increase vaccine and testing uptake, and deliver public health messaging.
The vaccine is currently available for those aged 16 and over or for 12 to 15-year-olds who are most at risk from Covid or live with people who are at high risk.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has yet to advise lowering the age due to concerns the Pfizer jab may be linked to a rare form of heart inflammation.
But other scientists have accused the panel of dithering and called for children to be jabbed immediately.
Mr Javid said it was important for the NHS and schools to be prepared to vaccination .He added: ‘While I await updated advice from JCVI on the 12-15 cohort, I have asked the NHS to make preparations – should they be needed – to roll out the vaccine to this group’
Schools and colleges in England are being encouraged to maintain increased hygiene and ventilation from September, but year group ‘bubbles’ and face-covering requirements have been removed.
Unions have called for more action to ensure schools are kept as safe as possible and education is not disrupted further.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said current safety requirements were ‘not sufficient’ to prevent a rise in cases.
He added: ‘To prevent a sharp rise in cases, the watchwords must be ventilation, air filtration, masks, vaccines and vigilance.’
The Government yesterday reported a further 100 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid, and there have been a further 38,046 cases.
Delta Covid variant is TWICE as likely to land patients in hospital as well as being more infectious, study shows
The Delta variant doubles the risk of hospital admission, a study has found.
It was already known that the Covid strain first identified in India is up to 50 per cent more transmissible than the previous dominant Alpha variant, which emerged in Kent.
But the largest study to date comparing the two now shows those infected with the Delta strain are 2.26 times more likely to be admitted to hospital.
Delta is also 1.45 times more likely to see people entering A&E needing emergency treatment.
Scientists claimed this is more proof that the same traits which make the variant spread faster also increase levels of the virus in those it infects, which results in them becoming more severely ill.
The authors of the study, led by Public Health England and Cambridge University, said their results should be used by hospitals to plan – especially in areas where the Delta variant is on the rise.
Dr Anne Presanis, a senior statistician at the university, said: ‘Our analysis highlights that in the absence of vaccination, any Delta outbreaks will impose a greater burden on healthcare than an Alpha epidemic.
‘Getting fully vaccinated is crucial for reducing an individual’s risk of symptomatic infection with Delta in the first place and, importantly, of reducing a Delta patient’s risk of severe illness and hospital admission.’
Commenting on the results, Dr Zania Stamataki, a viral immunologist at Birmingham University, said: ‘Taken together with previous studies showing that Delta is 50 per cent more infectious than Alpha, evidence mounts that we are dealing with a very dangerous variant.’
Some 74 per cent of the participants in the study – which was published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases – were unvaccinated.
But among the vaccinated – the vast majority of whom had only had one dose – those infected with the Delta variant may have had almost twice the risk of hospitalisation compared with those who had the Alpha variant.
But this figure is uncertain because there were too few vaccinated patients to provide a precise estimate.