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Ministers plan walk-in clinics to accelerate vaccine roll-out for 12- to 15-year-olds

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Walk-in vaccination clinics for schoolchildren will be unveiled in a few weeks in an effort to accelerate the rollout of jabs.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that ministers plan to launch the scheme for 12- to 15-year-olds soon.

It stems from concerns that the government has been far too slow in rolling out the vaccination program in schools.

Sources also claim the new clinics are an attempt to keep anti-vaxxers away from school gates.

Last night there were fresh calls to speed up the vaccination of teenagers after an analysis of official figures by The Mail on Sunday showed that almost half of new Covid cases in England are now under 20.

When schools went back early last month, 33 percent of new cases were in that age group.

But by the second week of this month, the stock had grown to 46 percent. Teenagers now account for the lion’s share of infections under the age of 20.

Walk-in vaccination clinics for schoolchildren to be unveiled within weeks in an effort to accelerate the roll-out of jabs (stock image)

Walk-in vaccination clinics for schoolchildren to be unveiled within weeks in an effort to accelerate the roll-out of jabs (stock image)

As the number of cases has risen, the number of new infections under the age of 20 in absolute terms is not far from doubling since the beginning of September, from about 9,000 to almost 15,500 a day.

Hospital consultant Dr David Strain, who led a recent Exeter University study looking at how teen pricking could help protect others, said the increase was “very scary” and showed that the teen vaccination campaign needed to be ramped up quickly.

If not, he warned, older relatives of infected children would needlessly die from Covid. Only 15 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds in England are now vaccinated, compared to 11.5 percent a week ago.

dr. Strain said teens acted as a “viral reservoir” — that while they rarely became seriously ill from Covid, they inevitably spread it to older relatives.

He added: ‘In our study, we expected infections to occur in children and adolescents about six weeks after they started mixing. Then there would be an increase in the number of cases among the over-65s.

“If you look at the data from the past few weeks, that’s starting to happen. Our next concern is that this [spread to older age groups] will increase the number of hospital admissions.’

Although 94 percent of people over 50 have been double stung, said Dr. Strain that this left significant numbers unprotected, while there were ‘hints of waning immunity’ in those already vaccinated – hence the need for the booster campaign.

He said no one wanted to see children grow up with the guilt of passing Covid on to a family member who became seriously ill.

“But kids that age are smart enough to know that they brought the virus home from school, and then parents or grandparents got sick,” he added.

More than 3.3 million booster shots have been administered in England, according to data released yesterday. In the UK, 49.4 million people have had their first Covid shot – the equivalent of 85.9 per cent of those aged 12 and over. More than 45.3 million have had two doses.

About 43,423 daily cases of Covid were recorded yesterday, a 12.8 percent increase in seven days, and there were 148 deaths within 28 days of testing positive – an increase of 5.4 percent in a week.

However, caregivers at healthcare facilities have expressed concern that the rollout of booster shots for staff has been too slow. One provider said employees who happily took the first two shots are refusing to reload.

They said one of the reasons is that staff “don’t want to do three to four jabs a year,” but added that the nature of the rollout isn’t driving demand either.

“Nursing homes are not as involved in encouraging staff as it is not mandatory,” they said. ‘They only send the link’ [to staff] register.’

The Ministry of Health declined to release figures last night about how many healthcare workers had taken the booster shot.

Three reasons not to panic about the number of Covid infections in Britain: STEPHEN ADAMS examines the jab programme, protective antibodies and changing demographics

Analysis by Stephen Adams, medical editor for the Mail on Sunday

New daily Covid cases are running twice as fast as last year around this time. The number of people admitted to hospital daily with the virus has been higher on average this autumn than last year.

And the number of new Covid cases – and deaths – per capita here is much higher than in Germany and France.

But while there have been calls for tighter curbs to stop the spread of Covid from some quarters, there are no widespread calls for them.

In fact, ministers are quietly convinced that this winter will not be as bad as the previous one, despite persistently high infection rates.

There are three reasons for this. First, the hugely successful vaccination program.

At this time last year, only a few thousand people in this country had received a Covid shot – those who had been vaccinated as part of a clinical trial.

Thus, there was virtually no vaccine-induced immunity. Indeed, last October no one knew if the vaccines – which were being produced at record speeds in the UK, Germany and the US – would work.

It was almost Christmas before the NHS Covid vaccination campaign started, with grandmother Margaret Keenan, then 90, receiving the first shot on 8 December.

Of those eligible for vaccination — ages 12 and older — 85.9 percent received a single dose and 78.8 percent received two doses.

Among the over-50s, who are responsible for 49 of 50 Covid-related deaths, the numbers are even higher, at 96 percent for a single dose and 94 percent for two doses.

This has ‘weakened the link’, to paraphrase chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, between Covid infections, serious illness and death. Of the 51,281 Covid-related deaths in England in the first six months of this year, 98.8 percent were not double vaccinated, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The second reason why high infection rates are not a cause for alarm — a reason closely related to vaccination — is that many more people now have protective antibodies.

Last October, only 4.4 percent of the English population had Covid antibodies, according to a study led by Imperial College London. By August, that had risen to 93.6 percent of adults, the US-led Covid-19 infection survey found.

This increase was mainly due to vaccination, but also to an increase in naturally acquired infection. People with Covid antibodies are much less likely to become infected. And if they do, they are much less likely to develop serious Covid disease.

Third, the demographics of the infection have changed radically.

Last fall, Covid infections were relatively evenly distributed across different age groups. Now infections are concentrated in children, teens and young adults: so far in October, nearly half of new infections have been under the age of 20.

The cruel truth is that aging is by far the greatest risk of serious Covid illness and death.

This is stubbornly emphasized by Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistics guru at the University of Cambridge. Last year, he calculated the risk of death among unvaccinated people who get Covid “doubles for every six years of age, all the way from childhood to old age.”

Age “overwhelms” all other factors — such as gender, ethnicity or even health problems — he said.

But because most of those now getting Covid are young – four in five cases this fall were under 50 – we can be confident that the overall burden of serious illness will be much, much lower than last winter.

However, the pandemic appears to be getting hotter in Britain than in France, Germany and Italy. In part, this is the result of more intensive testing in the UK: Germany, for example, recently dropped free tests for most people.

But it’s also hotter in real terms – with around 100 Covid-related fatalities a day in the UK, our death rate is more than double that in those three countries.

Yet they impose draconian rules for everyday life, such as the widespread use of Covid passes, to which we are not subject. Would Brits now applaud that?

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