education

Unions press for swift decision on vaccinating children in England


Ministers could take another fortnight before decisions are made on whether to vaccinate teenagers, as education unions called for a swift outcome to ensure some older children could get jabs before September.

A quarter of a million children in England missed school last week because of Covid infections, self-isolation or school closures, prompting calls for pupils to be vaccinated. On Wednesday three more schools in County Durham closed after a surge in Covid-19 cases.

With four weeks to go until the end of term in England and six weeks of school holidays, the government has a slim window to vaccinate 16- and 17-year-olds before the start of the September term. No 10 is reported to be leaning in favour of vaccinating older teenagers, depending on the final advice from experts.

One Whitehall source said the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, had been pushing for a decision on vaccinating older teens to allow for minimal disruption for pupils over a difficult winter with rising infections.

But allies of Williamson strongly denied that was the case, saying he was awaiting guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been licensed for use in 12- to 15-year-olds following trials in the US that showed it was safe.

It is understood the government believes there is enough supply and capacity to give two doses to older teens before schools return in September, should that tally with the advice.

However, one source said the demand for doses among young adults meant there was time to gather better data before making a recommendation for teenagers.

See also  Students told they can go home from university if it is ‘for the long term’

Teaching unions urged a swift decision so schools could plan for the autumn term. Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There’s a strong educational case for vaccines to be made generally available to secondary-age students, and particularly the older age groups in secondary schools and colleges, in order to minimise disruption to teaching in the autumn term and beyond.

“However, we appreciate that the decision is finely balanced because it is vital that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is best placed to make that decision on the basis of all the available evidence, and we hope it is able to reach a verdict as a matter of urgency.”

Prof Russell Viner, of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and a member of Sage, said the decision had to be based on the latest safety data.

“The intensive testing system we have in place for schoolchildren is important to protect them and the community, but not surprisingly leads to more educational disruption when community infection levels are rising,” he said.

“The decision about whether to vaccinate healthy teenagers is a complex one. It needs to balance risks and benefits for both young people and for broader society – and there are complex ethical and safety issues. Rising educational disruption should definitely be part of this equation and I hope that the JCVI are taking this into account, although safety must be the priority. I would hope we are in a position to vaccinate all secondary school students once we have sufficient safety data.”

See also  Outrage after grade boundaries for new BTec qualification raised

More than three in five adults in the UK have received a second dose of vaccine – 43.4 million people. The statistics show the government is on track to have offered a first dose to all adults by 19 July, by which time everyone aged 40 and over and or classed as clinically extremely vulnerable will have received their second dose.

Downing Street is said to be encouraged by data showing low numbers of deaths and hospitalisations, though more than 16,000 new confirmed Covid cases were reported in the UK on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since early February.

Boris Johnson hopes to be able to announce that all legal enforcements on social distancing and mask-wearing can lapse after 19 July, which one No 10 source said would be “a shift towards personal responsibility”, while cautioning that it was still too early to make a final call.

A report by the government’s events research programme, leaked to Politico, found that even minor interventions such as mask-wearing in venues could be potentially catastrophic to the recovery of the events sector.

It found that if high-intervention measures such as masks, bans on food or drink and attendance caps were kept in place, the events industry would lose a third of its annual turnover, and for indoor events such as nightclubs and gigs the industry would make just 37% of its 2019 turnover.

But even if keeping low intervention measures, such as only requiring masks, in place, the events industry was predicted to still be running at 82% of its 2019 turnover.

See also  Us teachers know that keeping children educated during lockdown is a team effort



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more