Spike in COVID among school children sparks vaccine plea

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Health chiefs have urged teenagers to get the COVID vaccine amid a spike in cases among secondary-school aged children.

Latest figures show infection rates among the 10 to 19 age group at around 1,100 per 100,000 compared to relative low figures in every other age group.

Dr Mike Gogarty, told a meeting of the Essex health and scrutiny committee on October 7, that this showed the importance of pushing vaccines in schools.

He said: “The Pfizer vaccine that we are using in schools is 75 to 85 per cent effective in reducing infection and will have a marked effect of reducing infection within schools and therefore will help reduce absenteeism. So it is really important to push vaccines if we want to keep children in schools.”

The second highest rate is the zero to nines and the third is in the 40 to 49s who are broadly the parents of the secondary school-aged children.

There is some infection passing to them but none passing to the older groups, he added.

He said: “It is absolutely critical that children remain in education and the espoused strategy of this government and the council is this disease not harmful in children.

“It is only harmful where it might disrupt education and what we need to do is to as much as we possibly can is to keep children in school.

“Neighbouring authorities are taking slightly different positions and excluding children from school more readily than we are.

“That is not an approach we want to pursue at the moment.

“The important thing is that it looks that the rates in schools may be levelling out.”

But he did say that a rethink was needed to remodel the school outbreak system which he concluded was not working.

He said: “We are kind of reintroducing bubbles. Not as a way of stopping children going to school but saying ‘this child has been infected, these are all the contacts and then writing to all the parents to say there is a case, please make sure you child has a test’.”

“We tried that with secondary schools but the groups are too big.

“So we are struggling with getting the most effective way of doing that.

“If there is a reasonable number of children we might ask them all to get tested. They can still go to school.

“But using national test and trace and relying on parents to identify in timely fashion potential contacts is not an effective mechanism.

“The aim is keep children at school and minimise disease.

“There are very few tools available to public health practitioners at the moment to enable really effective outbreak management because the only way to that really is to exclude children from school and we don’t want to do that.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter