Major disruption in schools could continue until children are jabbed – expert

School pupils in playground
School pupils in playground (PA Archive)
11:18am, Sun 21 Feb 2021
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The vaccine rollout should turn to children “as fast as we can”, an expert advising the Government has said.

Professor John Edmunds said until everyone is jabbed, there remains a “significant risk of a resurgence” of the virus.

The scientist, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK is currently in a “strong position” due to the successful vaccine programme and the Prime Minister’s pledge to offer all adults a jab by the end of July will make a “huge difference”.

However, Prof Edmunds warned it will take months to have everyone covered.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It takes some time, it’s going to take months yet to vaccinate all of us.

“We’re all at risk and we can all spread the virus, and so until we’ve all been vaccinated – I include children here – then there is going to be significant risk of a resurgence.”

Prof Edmunds, who said he is a father of two children of secondary school age, said he believes “there is an argument for turning to children as fast as we can” in the rollout.

He added: “There will continue to be major disruption in schools until we have vaccinated our children.”

Opening schools now could see see the R number come close to 1, he said, but asked if two households socialising outside was likely to have an effect on the R number, he said: “Not much, mixing outside is pretty safe.”

On a phased reopening of schools, he said that purely from an epidemiological viewpoint “it’s always safer to take smaller steps and evaluate”.

Meanwhile, Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he expects an announcement on the rollout for the under 50s at some point this week.

I think it’s great to be ambitious and certainly doing this faster is a good idea

He told BBC Breakfast: “The strategy from JCVI that’s being provided as advice to the Government is just being finalised at the moment, and then Government will make their decision as to how to do this during the coming days, so I think there’ll be some kind of public announcement around that in the next week or so.”

Both men stressed the approach to easing lockdown must be a cautious and gradual one.

Prof Edmunds said rapid easing could lead to a surge in hospital admissions “and indeed deaths”.

Prof Finn, from the University of Bristol, said studies done there had shown that the vaccine programme is “beginning to have an impact now” on hospital numbers, but said the main reason cases are going down is “primarily the lockdown and not the vaccine programme”.

On the Government’s new goal on jabs, he said: “I think it’s great to be ambitious and certainly doing this faster is a good idea.”

He said the capacity in the system will need to expand as people come forward for their second doses but that there appears to be “an abundance of resources” to make that happen.

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