A final decision on whether to vaccinate all 12- to 15-year-olds is expected within days, despite the government’s immunisation experts refusing to recommend jabs for healthy teenagers.
The UK’s chief medical officers, including England’s Prof Chris Whitty, are to consider further evidence after Sajid Javid and his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ordered a review that could defy the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for the first time.
The health secretary said the advice from the CMOs would be considered “before making a decision shortly”.
The JCVI announced it was widening the Covid vaccination programme to more children aged between 12 and 15 with underlying health conditions, which means about 200,000 more children will be invited for vaccines.
But it is not recommending jabs for all healthy teenagers.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, the chair of Covid-19 immunisation for the JCVI, said: “The JCVI’s view is that overall, the health benefits from Covid-19 vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years are marginally greater than the potential harms.”
The decision came a week after the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed preparations were afoot to ensure the NHS was ready to offer coronavirus jabs to all 12- to 15-year-olds in England from early September.
The department said it wanted to be “ready to hit the ground running”.
Poland to donate 400,000 vaccines to Taiwan
Poland will donate 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to Taiwan, the foreign ministry in Warsaw has said.
While a relatively small domestic coronavirus outbreak is well under control in Taiwan, only about 5 per cent of its 23.5 million population are fully vaccinated, though the government has millions of vaccines on order.
It has already received some 6 million vaccines gifted by Japan and the United States, allowing it to speed up an inoculation programme that it said had been hampered initially by China, though Beijing denies playing any negative role.
Poland says its vaccine donation is a reciprocal move after Taiwan donated medical equipment during the first wave of the pandemic.
Slovakia, Czechia and Lithuania recently donated or said they would donate vaccines to Taiwan, which has repeatedly rejected offers of doses from China, saying it has doubts about the safety of Chinese made shots.
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 13:04
Cases in the United States rose by at least 304,588 on Friday to 40.03 million total, according to a Reuters tally.
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 12:50
More than 70 cases potentially linked to Green Man Festival
More than 70 cases of Covid-19 have been identified as potentially linked to Green Man Festival, according to reports.
Organisers of Wales’ largest music festival, which took place a fortnight ago, required ticket holders to show either a Covid passport as proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative lateral flow test result before entering the site.
But Public Health Wales confirmed that dozens of positive cases have since been linked with the three-day festival, WalesOnline has reported.
An NHS spokesperson told the news website: “Analysis of contact tracing data gathered by Test, Trace, Protect has identified 71 Welsh residents with confirmed coronavirus where Green Man Festival was reported as a possible exposure in the seven days before showing symptoms.
“However, it is important to note that these cases are not necessarily attributable to transmission at the festival as Green Man would have been one of a number of exposures reported by cases prior to onset including, for example, socialising outside the festival, travel to and from the festival etc.”
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 12:30
Nearly three-quarters of Covid hospital patients under 50 are unvaccinated
Nearly three-quarters of Covid hospital patients aged under 50 have not had the vaccine, data from Public Health England reveals.
Figures showed that most coronavirus-related deaths among younger people also happened to those who had not had their first dose of the vaccine.
Holly Bancroft has the full story:
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 12:00
What is the Mu variant and where has it been seen?
As the delta variant continues to sweep the world, health officials are watching another variant on the horizon.
Kelsie Sandoval answers the big questions about the emerging Mu variant:
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 11:32
Jabs for healthy 12- to 15-year-olds likely to get ministerial backing
Ministers look likely to approve the vaccination of healthy 12- to 15-year-olds after asking the UK’s chief medical officers to review the evidence for a mass rollout.
Professor Chris Whitty and his other UK counterparts are reviewing the wider benefits of vaccinating the age group, such as minimising school absences. They are expected to present their findings within days.
The government is awaiting their advice before making a final decision, but ministers have indicated they are keen on authorising a wider rollout.
But multiple newspapers reported government insiders playing up the likelihood of a subsequent approval of the programme, with a source telling the BBC: “We believe there is a strong case to vaccinate but await the advice of the chief medical officers.”
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 11:16
GPs ‘concerned’ by flu vaccine delivery delays
The delay to flu vaccine deliveries is “of concern” to GPs amid fears over high influenza levels, an expert has said.
Appointments for many patients had to be rescheduled after Seqirus, the largest provider of flu vaccines to the UK, confirmed delays of up to a fortnight in England and Wales.
The company blamed “unforeseen challenges linked with road freight delays” for the disruption.
Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told BBC Breakfast: “Clearly influenza immunisation this year is really important and the reason it’s so important is because of lockdowns we’ve had very low circulating influenza levels last winter.
“So we do know when there are low circulating influenza levels the year before, often we get high infection rates in the following year so it’s quite possible that we’ll have a high instance of influenza this year.
“So it’s really important to get the influenza immunisation and really important to get it as soon as possible.
“It is of concern that there are delays, but hopefully this will be corrected soon and we’ll get on in general practices, we always do.”
Eleanor Sly has more on this story:
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 10:47
Outdated government messaging ‘undermined Covid response’
Outdated communications skills at the heart of government were exposed by the Covid pandemic to the extent that the famous slides displayed at Downing Street press conferences were often completed minutes before being broadcast on live TV, Boris Johnson’s former media chief has revealed.
Lee Cain said that failings in the government’s communications strategy at the outset of the crisis resulted in the public receiving mixed messages at a critical time.
And he said that a hub of comms staff set up in the Cabinet Office to oversee official information campaigns as infections soared and the country was plunged into lockdown was a “failure” because of inexperienced staff, unclear lines of responsibility, inconsistent policy and endemic leaks.
Andrew Woodcock, our political editor, has the full story:
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 10:32
France could ease health pass restrictions in large shopping malls
France could ease health pass restrictions that are hitting large shopping mall businesses if the Covid situation keeps improving, labour minister Elisabeth Borne has said.
“The health situation is improving. If this is confirmed, we will be able to ease the rules,” Borne told France Inter radio, adding that this could be decided “in the coming days”.
French retail group Auchan said the introduction in early August of a health pass that customers must show in malls with a surface area of more than 20,000 square metres hit its business at the start of the third quarter.
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 09:57
Delay in child vaccine decision ‘frustrating’, Scottish expert says
The delay in a final decision on whether to offer Covid vaccines to all 12- to 15-year-olds is “frustrating”, a Scottish health board expert has said.
Jillian Evans, the head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, said vaccinating the age group would help prevent transmission of the virus and protect children from long Covid.
“We know that the JCVI’s decision is predominantly based on the individual benefits and risks to a child, and not considering some of the wider impacts, and that’s what the chief medical officers will do,” Ms Evans told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.
“The thing about this is, it’s frustrating because it just builds in further delay in a decision that we’ve already been pushing for, so it delays things a little bit further.
“Although I’m absolutely certain that there’ll be a lot of activity going on right now and in the days ahead so we can get to a decision as quickly as possible.”
She said that although the risk of long Covid in children was deemed to be small, much was still unknown about the illness.
Ms Evans continued: “You might pick up this news and think the JCVI has said no.
“They haven’t said no – what they’ve said is on the balance of marginal benefits of vaccination against the risk of severe disease we’re saying no, but we’re leaving it open for you to consider other wider considerations.
“So people might get confused by that.”
Emily Goddard4 September 2021 09:30