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Commentary: Unvaccinated teenagers risk turning schools into viral COVID-19 reservoirs – CNA

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LONDON: A series of pencilled lines on the kitchen doorframe show that my 13-year-old son overtook me last summer.

He is now taller, heavier and stronger than me, and enjoys an active academic and sporting life that does not easily accommodate strict social distancing.

He is also the only member of our household unvaccinated against COVID-19. In terms of infection, he is our weakest link, with the perfect mix of social contacts and physiology to catch and spread it.

READ: Commentary: Here’s why England is facing four more weeks of lockdown

UK YET TO HAVE RULES VACCINATING TEENAGERS

In early June 2021, the UK medicines regulator approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as safe and effective for children aged 12 to 15, but the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not yet ruled on whether to recommend it to all those aged 16 and 17, let alone younger teens.

With case numbers rising and hundreds of thousands of children being forced to isolate at home after testing positive or being in close contact with someone who has, the risk-benefit analysis seems to be shifting in favour of vaccinating all over-12s.

The most persuasive argument against vaccinating children is that most suffer mildly, if at all, from COVID-19, meaning they bear the risks of vaccination for little or no benefit to themselves.

This is especially true when community infection rates are low, reducing the chance that a child will suffer associated harms of exposure, such as illness, including long-COVID and disrupted schooling and socialisation.

HIGHER STAKES

But the rise in cases in the UK since mid-May is denting this rationale. A third wave is upon us.

There are more than 20,000 confirmed daily new infections, with an estimated 385,000 pupils absent from state schools on 24 June due to Covid-19. That is 5.1 per cent of the relevant school population, up from 3.3 per cent the week before.

Being out of school damages children educationally and socially; there is an added economic cost if parents stay off work.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has proposed abandoning rules requiring pupil isolation. That is a prescription for mass infections in schools, especially given that masking and social distancing requirements were recently dropped.

The Delta variant is more transmissible than the Alpha variant; the jury is out on whether it causes more severe illness.

Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage group of science advisers, notes that herd immunity requires about 85 per cent of the population to be immune, and children make up 21 per cent of the UK population. In short, the UK’s “vaccine wall” has a large, teen-shaped hole in it.

READ: Commentary: Variants versus vaccines is becoming the new COVID-19 race

READ: Commentary: We have to live with an endemic COVID-19. Here’s what that could look like

That, in turn, means either ongoing transmission, with all its risks (the vaccines are great but not perfect) or continued interventions like social distancing.

This capricious virus has the capacity to evolve further. Leaving older children unjabbed risks creating viral reservoirs capable of cooking up future variants, some of which might not be as benign to the young.

CONCERNS OVER RARE HEART INFLAMMATION

The chief vaccine-related risk to teenagers, mostly young males, appears to be myocarditis or pericarditis, two types of heart inflammation, linked to mRNA vaccines, such as those made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

As of Jun 28, from a total of 324 million doses of all vaccines given across all ages, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 518 such cases in those aged 30 or under, usually within days of a second dose. The CDC notes that most recovered, and it still recommends that over-12s receive a jab to protect them and their communities.

US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, left, talks to 12th grade art student Oscar Quezada at White Plains High School, Thursday, Apr 22, 2021 (Photo: AP/Mark Lennihan)

Some worry that rare adverse events may knock confidence in other childhood vaccinations. But given the UK’s current predicament it is logical to fight the threat in front of us, not a theoretical future adversary.

Clinicians are still cataloguing the long-term effects of natural infection. The idea that children should catch an unpredictable virus in preference to having a largely safe and effective vaccine will trouble many.

Putting aside the question of whether young people in the UK should have priority over those at higher risk in the Global South, this discussion shows there are no good options in a pandemic, only less bad ones.

READ: Commentary: Teachers now have new jobs. Schools will never be normal again after COVID-19

READ: Commentary: In Singapore’s bold plan to reopen, these are the hard-nosed decisions society must make

Arguably, offering (not mandating) first doses to willing teens, supply permitting, before school ends this month would have been a reasonable strategy to protect children, blunt community transmission and favourably adjust the risk ahead of a September return to the classroom.

Instead, the UK is entering the second summer of the COVID-19 pandemic much as it entered the first: talking tough against a shape-shifting virus that responds only to deeds, not words.

Without fast, strategic thinking on difficult issues such as teenage vaccination and indoor ventilation, Javid’s bid to loosen all restrictions on Jul 19 will spell Freedom Day for the virus, as well as for us.

(Are COVID-19 vaccines still effective against new variants? And could these increase the risk of reinfection? Experts explain why COVID-19 could become a “chronic problem” on CNA’s Heart of the Matter podcast.)

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B.C. reports 342 new COVID cases, half of which are in Interior Health – Vernon Morning Star

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The province is reporting 342 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday (Aug. 4), a number not seen since May.

Of the new cases, 66 are in Fraser Health, 57 are in Vancouver Coastal Health, 171 are in Interior Health, 13 are in Northern Health, 32 are in Island Health and three new cases are in people who typically reside outside of Canada.

There are 1,764 active cases, of which 945 are in Interior Health. There are 55 people in hospital, 23 of whom are in intensive care or ICU.

Vaccination rates for people ages 12 and older have reached 81.5 per cent for first doses and 67.9 for second doses. There have been 6,931,815 doses of COVID vaccines administered so far.

There are five long-term care facilities currently experiencing COVID outbreaks: Holyrood Manor (Fraser Health), Nelson Jubilee Manor, Kootenay Street Village, Cottonwoods Care Centre and Brookhaven Care Centre (Interior Health).

According to the province, 78 per cent of cases are in people who are unvaccinated, while 18 per cent are in people who have had just one dose.

READ MORE: Vaccinated? You’re 10x less likely to catch and transmit COVID-19, but risk remains


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B.C. reports 342 new cases of COVID-19 over past 24 hours, with half in Interior Health – Kamloops This Week

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After days of reporting elevated case counts near 200 new per day, B.C. reported 342 new cases over the past 24 hours on Wednesday.

After a dramatic decline in cases from April to July, which the provincial government attributed to vaccinations taking hold in the province, cases have once again started spiking upwards, and the Interior Health region is leading the way.

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On Wednesday, Interior Health accounted for 171 of the 342 new cases, continuing the trend of making up approximately half of all new cases in the province.

But daily case data from the BC Centre for Disease Control also shows other regions beginning to increase, including Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health.

Interior Health now has nearly 1,000 active cases.

By the numbers, Fraser Health has 388 active cases, Vancouver Coastal Health has 258, Northern Health has 52, Island Health has 109, 12 are non-residents of Canada and Interior Health has 945.

As to where cases are emerging in Interior Health, weekly case data won’t be released until later on Wednesday. Previous weeks showed cases emerging in the Central Okanagan, where an outbreak was declared by Interior Health on July 28. That outbreak only affected the Central Okanagan local health area, but other local health areas also saw modest increases in cases.

Hospitalizations and deaths, however, remain low. No deaths were reported on Wednesday and only about a dozen deaths have been reported since the beginning of July.

As of Wednesday, B.C. had 55 people in hospital and 23 of those patients in ICUs.

With vaccinations continuing, B.C. has now put two doses in 67.9 per cent of everyone eligible to receive the vaccine in this province.

The province’s one-dose rate as of Wednesday is 81.5 per cent for everyone age 12 and older.

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COVID-19 outbreaks in two Kelowna area care homes announced as case numbers rise | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source – iNFOnews

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Cottonwoods in Kelowna had an outbreak.
(KATHY MICHAELS / iNFOnews.ca)

August 04, 2021 – 2:44 PM

New case numbers of COVID-19 continue to rise across B.C., with Interior Health yet again showing the most growth.

It seems that the disease may have spread beyond the 20 to 40 age group, as well, with two new outbreaks in area care homes being reported.

Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna and Brookhaven Care Centre in West Kelowna are listed among the province’s long-term care facilities where there’s an outbreak. Brookhaven has eight cases: four residents and four staff. Cottonwoods Care Centre long-term care has three resident cases.

In the last 24 hours there have been 342 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed, for a total of 150,973 cases in the province since the start of the pandemic. Of these new cases, 171 were in Interior Health.

It now has 945 of the 1,764 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. Of the active cases, 55 people are in hospital and 23 are in intensive care. 

Fraser Health is reporting 66 new cases, for a total active caseload of 388, Vancouver Coastal Health is reporting 57 new cases for a total of 258 active cases, Northern Health had 13 new cases raising the active cases to 52 and Island Health had 32 new cases raising its active caseload to 109.

In the past 24 hours, no new deaths have been reported, for an overall total of 1,772.

Since December 2020, the Province has administered 6,931,815 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, 81.5% (3,777,588) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 67.9% (3,146,669) have received their second dose.
In addition, 82.4% (3,564,533) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 70.1% (3,033,200) have received their second dose.

 


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News from © iNFOnews, 2021

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