Official data shows that the Covid vaccine drive in England for children is moving slower than expected. This has prompted calls for the NHS’s speedy rollout to stop ministers from resorting at Plan B.
The Government dashboard shows that only 19.3% of 12-15 year-olds have submitted for their vaccines. This despite the fact the entire group being eligible since September 20, 2018.
There have been delays and cancellations in the roll-out of children’s services. Many centres that gave jabs during the initial roll-out are now closed.
NHS England maintained today that all children were invited to receive the vaccine and that they could book online. This was after Whitehall documents leaked claimed that half of the age group has yet to be issued an invitation.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday urged ministers to ‘turbo-charge’ the roll out to avoid a rebound in Covid cases which could force ministers to impose Plan B — bringing back face masks and work from home.
It comes after the US took a step closer today to jabbing over-5s, but experts immediately warned Britain not to follow their lead.
The Covid vaccine drive in England for children is moving slower than initially thought. A dashboard update has reduced the proportion of 12-15-year-olds (purpleline) who had been inocualted to 22 to 19 percent.
This was despite internal Whitehall polling by YouGov showing that only half of 12-15-year-olds were invited to receive the Covid vaccine. According to their parents, this result came as a surprise. NHS England stated that it had already invited all age groups to their jab, and was now sending follow-up letters.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) — which has taken over from now-defunct Public Health England —yesterday downgraded its estimates for vaccine uptake among 12 to 15-year-olds.
It was reported Wednesday that 22 percent had received their first jab.
After the dates were changed, however, this percentage was dropped to 19.3% in yesterday’s update.
Officials indicated that they were now counting age groups starting from August 31 in a specific year, instead of March 31 as previously.
This means that older teenagers were excluded in the 12-15-year-old age bracket. However, more younger people were included to reduce the number of those who had been vaccinated.
The update also saw a drop in the proportion of 16- to 17-year olds who were jabbed from 58.7 percent to 55.9 percent.
Chiefs of health said that the new dates reflect’more accurately’ what is happening.
According to a report today, only half of the 12-15-year-olds in England were invited for the Covid vaccine. This is despite fears that more restrictions might be put in place.
YouGov’s ministers poll found that just half of parents reported their child or grandchild having been told to get their first dose.
Two-thirds of respondents said they were eager to have their child vaccinated after they were invited. Only 16% said that their offspring would not receive the vaccine.
NHS England sources claimed today that the poll was ‘not accurate’ and that they had already invited all eligible people. This week, 2.6 million ‘follow-up’ letters have been sent.
The internal figures — published by PoliticsHome — were circulated among ministers to show how the roll out is progressing.
It is unclear how many parents were polled in the polling. It is not known when the poll was conducted.
The publication stated that NHS England had set a goal for all 12-15-year-olds to receive a Covid vaccine in October half-term. However, this target seems to have been missed.
PoliticsHome was informed by a Whitehall source that there are concerns that young students could bring the virus home to their loved ones, as many have been exposed to coronavirus. How can young children be made to understand the risks?
Yesterday, Jeremy Hunt (Pictured), said that children’s vaccines must be ‘turbocharged to avoid more restrictions.
Chairman of the Commons’ health committee, Mr Hunt said yesterday that the UK had been unable to fully implement its plans, leaving it vulnerable to higher rates of child cases than other countries.
At a Royal Society of Medicine webinar, he said: ‘Essentially we need to turbocharge the vaccine rollout – particularly the booster jabs and the children’s vaccine programme. This is what’s driving the higher case rates.
He said that ministers should not be afraid to switch to Plan B if the Covid situation becomes too severe.
Mr Hunt stated that the growth in cases we are currently experiencing was primarily due to teenage schoolchildren.
“The reason we are seeing a mini-surge is because of the delay in the booster program and the schoolchildren vaccine programme.
“That’s where we need to put our efforts to turn around the situation.”
He said that the UK is now more exposed to other countries due to its inability to vaccinate children before returning to school.
Mr Hunt also criticized the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) because it took so long to give the green light for jabbing children.
They advised that the group only receive one dose of Covid jab in September, after the school term has already begun.
NHS England began offering jabs to the affected age group the following week, mostly through schools.
It now offers parents the ability to book their child for a vaccine online. There have been 80,000 appointments in the first four days.
The rate of people getting their first dose in England is still low at less than 20%.
According to the NHS online, all children will be offered the Covid vaccination this autumn.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS vaccine programme, said: ‘As we head in to October half term, the NHS Covid vaccination programme is opening up vaccine centres to young people aged 12 to 15 as another way to get their vaccine — if they have already received their vaccine or been invited through their school then they do not need to do anything.
‘The decision to get vaccinated has always been a private choice between a child and their parent or guardian — my 13-year-old son received his vaccine at school on the same day I had my booster dose in a local pharmacy.
‘I would encourage families to read the information together and then to book in to give winter protection to their children and their loved ones.
The graph above shows Covid cases in England according to age. It shows that infections are decreasing among children between the ages of 10 and 19. All other age groups saw an increase in cases, but the drop in children is a good sign as it will stop them spreading it.
The graph below shows Covid infection rates per 100,000 English citizens, divided by age. It is possible that cases in 5- to 19-year olds have reached a peak and are now on the decline. However, they were still rising in all age groups.
On October 23, the most recent date, the seven-day rolling rate of Covid cases among 10-14-year-olds was 1,765 cases per 100,000. This was down from the peak of nearly 2,000 cases on Tuesday last week.
Similar declines were observed among 15-19-year-olds (from 860 to 810 for 10,000) and 5- to 9-years-olds (760 to 700).
Experts believed the downturn that occurred before half term began was likely due to an increase in immunity levels in the age group sparked by back-to-school.
However, some experts have suggested it could be due a drop in Covid Testing. This would indicate that children were less likely to test themselves for the virus in the first half-term. Children must test themselves for the virus once a week and report their results to Test and Trace.
The testing figures aren’t broken down by age group. However, the Department of Health figures suggest that the number of swabs done in the two weeks preceding half-term barely changed.
Separate figures from the UK Health Security Agency — which took over from Public Health England — suggested the number of lateral flow tests carrid out fell by ten per cent in the week before the holidays.
However, the test positivity rate also dropped, indicating that the drop in cases may be real.
NHS England and Department of Health were contacted for comment.