As Boris Johnson seeks to avoid a return to restrictions, if not yet another ‘firewall’ lockdown, this winter we take a look at what might be in his ‘toolbox’ of emergency measures for England that should be announced as early as next week – and how useful they can be.
Jabs for children
To jab, or not to prick, every 12-15 year old has become a hot topic of debate. Last week, the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) said it was not recommending the move, saying while overall it would bring health benefits, the margin was too small for let him give the green light. The issue is currently under review by the UK’s chief medical officers, who are considering broader factors including the potential impact of jabs on education, such as school closings.
Ministers are known to be extremely excited for this to happen, assuming that medical advisers will give them the necessary approval.
Vaccinating this age group would reduce the risk of infection or serious illness, although the risk is already much lower than that of adults, and may also help reduce transmission. However, the protection against infection is weaker than for a more serious illness, and the Covid vaccines are somewhat less effective against the now dominant Delta variant.
Third injections have been approved for about 500,000 people with severely weakened immune systems, but these are considered part of their primary immunization schedule rather than booster shots per se.
The JCVI is considering the opportunity of a third Covid injection more broadly. While no decision is expected until next week, it is increasingly assumed that some sort of booster program has been approved – although it may initially be limited to older and more vulnerable people. Ministers want that to happen and have scheduled immediate distribution, possibly alongside flu shots.
Some experts say booster shots are unnecessary and that it would be unethical to give them when the poorest countries have yet to vaccinate their populations.
But data from Israel, where a booster program is underway with third jabs offered to those over 40, suggests there could be some benefits. According to a recent study – which has not yet been peer reviewed – seven to 13 days after the third dose, the chances of getting infected with Covid have dropped from 48 to 68% compared to two doses, while after 14-20 days the odds had dropped to 70-84%.
There are other factors to consider: Second jab uptake has already stabilized in many age groups in the UK, and at lower levels than the first doses. According to experts, this could be due to factors such as the perception that a second dose is not needed and that there are fewer incentives now that society is returning to signs of normalcy.
One question is whether the absorption of a third dose may be even lower. However, some experts said this was not obvious, noting that the longer a vaccine is proven to be safe, the more comfortable some people may be with taking it, and that at the very least roughly the same number should accept callbacks. as second doses.
Downing Street said Covid passports will be introduced by the end of the month, making full vaccination a mandatory requirement for entry to nightclubs and other crowded indoor places in England, without the ability to show a test recent negative or positive antibody test. Scotland voted for Covid passports to be introduced on October 1 on Wednesday.
In theory, the idea could help reduce the transmission of Covid, while also being able to encourage people to get vaccinated. But it’s a politically charged area for Johnson, who could lose a House of Commons vote on such a move if Labor decides to oppose it – and if such a vote takes place.
Critics also say that even people with a double bite can be infected with Covid, while for some, passports can make hesitant people even more reluctant to get bitten. Some also fear that the plans violate civil liberties and be discriminatory.
With very little flu circulating last year, there are fears that people’s immunity to the virus is low, raising fears that the flu – along with other winter viruses and Covid – could put the NHS under pressure. extreme.
Since a key factor in whether further Covid restrictions are needed is whether the NHS is overwhelmed, keeping flu levels low could be an important way to reduce the risk of this happening.
In July, ministers announced the introduction of the largest influenza vaccination program in UK history, with an injection or nasal spray vaccine offered free of charge to more than 35 million people. This will include all over 50s and high school students through grade 11, as well as all children aged two and three, elementary school students, people with certain health conditions, unpaid caregivers. , pregnant women, close contacts of immunocompromised people and primary health services. and adult social service staff.
To save resources, experts looked at the viability of giving flu and Covid shots at the same time, dubbed the fall “one in each arm” recall campaign. While an official announcement has yet to be made, Health Minister Lord Bethell said on Thursday that Covid boosters would be given alongside flu shots.