New medical research heightens concern over long Covid as pupils in England and Wales return to classroom
The government’s expert advisers on 予防接種 are resisting intense political pressure to give the go-ahead for COVID jabs for all Britain’s teenagers because of fears it could disrupt the programme of boosters for vulnerable older people, 独立者 has learnt.
The development came amid ever louder demands to protect those aged 12 に 15, with headteachers’ representatives calling for a decision “sooner rather than later” as schools return across England and Wales after the summer holidays.
ザ・ MHRA medicines regulator has already cleared the Pfizer and Moderna jabs for those aged 12 and over on safety grounds, but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has the responsibility to consider the wider question of how the rollout of vaccines will have the greatest positive impact across society as a whole.
A person close to the JCVI told 独立者 that there is “a need to consider how to prioritise boosters for vulnerable groups and a campaign for that, along with getting people to have their second doses before trying to launch a schools programme”.
There is likely to be an increase in cases from the close contact of children within schools, but given that the vaccines are effective at stopping hospitalisation, but less so at stopping transmission, it was a complex decision to decide to vaccinate younger children who were less likely to become severely ill from Covid-19, 彼らは付け加えた.
保健大臣 サジド・ジャビド said on Saturday that it was clear that “offering all teenagers the jab would solidify our wall of protection” and said the NHS and public health teams were ready to start rolling out jabs to the 12-15 age group as soon as the JCVI gave its long-awaited green light.
Downing Street said on Tuesday that it was not too late for children to be given the jab in gyms and assembly halls as they return to school over the coming days, though Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson stressed that this would happen only with JCVI approval. 番号 10 said last week it was hoping that this approval would come “as soon as possible” but there is still no date for the committee to announce its decision.
A health source insisted that there was no shortage of vaccine supplies of the kind that would make it impossible to operate a booster programme at the same time as protecting 12 15歳まで. Mr Javid has asked the NHS to be ready to roll out jabs to both groups, said a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson.
Downing Street said that it expected over-50s who have already received two doses of Covid vaccine to start getting their third “booster” shot during the course of September, though this too is dependent on JCVI approval. There are concerns that the effectiveness of the first two doses, given to the oldest patients as early as December last year, may now be wearing off.
But Mr Javid has said that ”the main consideration for any decision on vaccinating our young people will always be the risks and the benefits to children themselves”, rather than any knock-on impact on other age groups.
Concern over children’s vulnerability to coronavirus has been heightened by a new study using brain scans to show that teenagers with long Covid display similar neurodegenerative damage to that seen in adults, which is linked to memory loss, difficulty concentrating and disruption to sleep.
Epidemiologist Dr Deepti Gurdasani, of Queen Mary University London, 言った 独立者 that in the light of the evidence from the French research, it was “disturbing” that children were being sent unvaccinated into classrooms at a time when infection rates are 26 times higher than this time last year.
Dr Gurdasani said that, with one in 40 secondary-age children and one in 50 of primary age thought to be carrying the virus in England, there was little doubt that infections will rise “higher than they have ever been” in schools once term-time gets underway.
“We are sending children who are plainly susceptible and unvaccinated into environments where previous mitigations like ‘school bubbles’ have been removed, where masks are no longer mandatory and where they are not going to contact trace," 彼女は言いました.
“We are going into September with infections 26 times higher than last year, when we were only dealing with the less infectious original variant and cases nonetheless quadrupled after schools returned. This will almost certainly lead to a massive surge in infections.”
Dr Gurdasani pointed to the study published last week by Covid researchers at a Marseille hospital which for the first time showed evidence of “hypometabolism” in children’s brains as that seen in adult long Covid sufferers – even in cases where the initial coronavirus symptoms were mild.
Evidence from brain scans pointed to “long Covid in children with functional brain metabolism patterns similar to those found in adult patients, regardless of age and initial severity of the infection”, found the study, に掲載されました European Journal of Nuclear Medicine.
Dr Gurdasani said that 12 million children have now been vaccinated safely and effectively in countries around the world, 米国を含む, with only “extremely low” incidence of harmful side effects.
“To me it is worrying that we are exposing children to a virus which has long-term neurological effects while their brains are developing," 彼女は言いました.
“I’m not sure what they are waiting for. It is not a cautious approach to be waiting for more data when every week we are seeing 24,000 adolescents being infected and some of them will end up with long Covid. It is very, very disturbing.
“There are 3.9 百万 12 15歳まで. The Pfizer vaccine was approved by the MHRA as long ago as June. They could all have been vaccinated by now.”
Virologist Dr Stephen Griffin told 独立者 that vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds was “definitely necessary”.
And the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said that jabs for teens would help avert the danger of further school closures following two academic years in which pupils have suffered from massive disruption to classes.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “There is a good argument for making coronavirus vaccinations available to 12 to 15-year-olds on the grounds of reducing the risk of educational disruption during the autumn term and beyond, as well as providing additional public health protections.
“We understand the importance of balancing these benefits against evidence of any potential risk from vaccinations and the JCVI is best placed to make that judgement, but we really do need a decision sooner rather than later.”
The DHSC spokesperson said: “There are no supply issues and the health secretary has asked the NHS to be ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds and deliver an autumn booster campaign, subject to final advice from the JCVI.
“Our phenomenal vaccine programme is building a wall of defence across the country, 以上で 105,000 lives saved and over 82,100 hospitalisations prevented.”
その間, Downing Street confirmed that there was no change to plans to require proof of full vaccination for anyone visiting a nightclub in England from the end of September.