JCVI

JCVI to Advise Government Against Vaccinating Children Over Safety Concerns

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is to recommend against the vaccination of under-18s until there is more safety data, according to the Telegraph.

Experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are expected to make a recommendation against the vaccination of under-18s in the immediate future.

The committee is understood to be preparing an “interim” statement for release as soon as the end of the week following a meeting on Tuesday.  

At a meeting, members are understood to have voiced serious ethical concerns about vaccinating children, given that they rarely suffer serious illness from Covid.

The statement is set to say more time is needed to assess studies of vaccine rollouts in other countries where children are being vaccinated – including the US and Israel – before deciding whether such a programme should be launched in the U.K.

A Whitehall source said: “Nobody is going to green light the mass vaccination of children at this stage. Scientists want to see more data from the U.S. and elsewhere before taking a firm stand either way. Nobody is going to make a final decision at this point. The JCVI will want to weigh up the benefits against the risks before vaccinating children, and it wants more data.”

Under-18s very rarely suffer serious disease with COVID-19 and younger people are also affected more strongly by some of the rare-but-serious vaccine side-effects such as blood clots, meaning the risk-benefit calculation is less likely to be favourable. With data on children, who were not included in the trials, very sparse, this is the right advice. Let’s hope the Government follows it.

The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.

Scottish Children Will Be Vaccinated “as Quickly as Possible”, Says Nicola Sturgeon

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to tell U.K. leaders this month that the vaccination of children against Covid is a “political” decision, without offering a firm recommendation either way. If the use of the Pfizer vaccine in 12-16 year-olds is approved by the body, Nicola Sturgeon says Scottish children will be vaccinated “as quickly as possible”. The Telegraph reports that planning on a vaccine roll-out scheme for children aged 12 and over has started already.

In a statement at Holyrood, [the First Minister] acknowledged that giving children Covid jabs could provide them with greater protection and minimise any further disruption to schooling.

However, she refused to guarantee that any rollout would be completed by the start of the new school year in August, noting that vaccine supplies “are not limitless”.

Ms Sturgeon also pointed out that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the U.K.’s medicines regulator, has so far only approved the Pfizer vaccine for use among 12 to 15 year-olds.

Pfizer said its trials had shown 100% efficacy and a strong immune response in children between 12 and 15, and also suggested that the vaccine was safe with no unusual side effects.

Its use among children in the U.K. was approved by the MHRA last Friday, with the regulator saying it had carried out a “rigorous review” which showed the vaccine was safe and effective in adolescents.

The JCVI must now advise governments on whether this age group should be vaccinated as part of the U.K. roll-out.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “Vaccination may well be an important way of giving children greater protection, minimising any further disruption to schooling and further reducing community transmission of the virus.

“And so I can confirm that if the JCVI recommends the use of the vaccine for children aged 12 and over, we will move as quickly as possible to implement the advice.”

She later said: “In anticipation of the JCVI giving the go-ahead to vaccination of over-12s, we’ve already started that planning.”

Ms Sturgeon said children with underlying health conditions may be vaccinated first but she could not yet provide a timescale for when pupils would get their jabs. However, she emphasised that the focus remained on vaccinating the adult population.

The First Minister’s announcement came as she refused to reduce Covid restrictions in any part of Scotland, blaming a 50% rise in cases over the past week due to the Indian variant.

School leaders in England have also called on Boris Johnson to vaccinate schoolchildren against Covid before the start of the summer holidays, citing concerns over the Indian Delta Covid vaccine. 

The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The U.K. Medical Freedom Alliance has raised “grave concerns” about the emergency authorisation of the Pfizer vaccine for children in an urgent open letter to the MHRA.

Given that these vaccines will have virtually no benefit to the children themselves, it is profoundly unethical and indefensible to vaccinate children, especially with an experimental vaccine using novel technology, in what appears to be a misguided attempt to protect adults and achieve herd immunity. We call on the MHRA to exercise caution and immediately reverse their decision.

The letter is worth reading in full.

School Leaders Say Children Should Be Vaccinated before the Start of the Summer Holidays

Following the approval of the use of the Pfizer vaccine in those aged 12-15 by the U.K. medicines regulator, school leaders have called on the Government to vaccinate schoolchildren against Covid before the start of the summer holidays. Their hope is that pupils will be fully vaccinated before returning to the classroom in September. The MailOnline has the story.

Ministers have asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) whether to give the jab to teenagers – the current rollout is set to stop at age 18 except for children with serious health conditions. 

The JCVI – which normally rules who should get a vaccine – is expected to tell Number 10 that jabbing children is a “political” decision and will leave the ball in ministers’ court. 

Teaching unions and school leaders today said starting vaccinating children soon could ensure they have had both jabs by the time they start the school year in September.

But vaccinating children against the virus is a controversial issue because youngsters only have a tiny risk of getting seriously ill and their immunity would likely only protect older adults. 

More than 100 cross-party MPs and the World Health Organisation have said the priority should be to get vaccine doses abroad to poorer countries where vulnerable people still haven’t been jabbed before giving them to low-risk children.

Hamid Patel, Chief Executive of the Star Academies school trust based in Blackburn – the area of the country with the most cases of the Covid Indian variant – said schoolchildren should be vaccinated as a matter of priority.

He said there would be a much higher uptake if children were given the jab during term time before the school holidays…

And Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, also urged the JCVI to consider expanding the rollout to teenagers.

He said offering them the vaccine would “protect the wider adult population who are at greater risk from Covid”.

There are “ethical dilemmas” to be considered when it comes to the decision on whether or not to vaccinate children against Covid, an expert has said.

Professor Anthony Harnden, Deputy Chairman of the JCVI, said while a “very small minority” of children have been severely affected by the virus, children “in the main” do not get severe illness.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I think the vast majority of benefit won’t be to children, it will be an indirect benefit to adults in terms of preventing transmission and protecting adults who haven’t been immunised, for whatever reason haven’t responded to the vaccine and therefore that presents quite a lot of ethical dilemmas as to whether you should vaccinate children to protect adults.”

He added: “We need to be absolutely sure that the benefits to them (children) and potentially to society far outweigh any risks.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Health Secretary Matt Hancock says vaccinating children in the U.K. against Covid will take priority over donating doses to other countries.

End of Lockdown Unlikely to Bring an End to Face Masks and Work from Home Guidelines

Professor Anthony Harnden, the Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), says that the unlocking of society will be a “gradual process” requiring a “cautious” approach – even if the June 21st date for the end of lockdown is met. He told BBC Breakfast (as quoted in WalesOnline):

Even if we do un-lockdown, if you are in a vulnerable position, particularly if you’ve not been vaccinated, you do need to carry on being cautious, even if the June 21st date goes ahead.

So I think we’ve all got used to living within boundaries at the moment and I think it’s not an all or none, I think it will be a gradual process even if the June 21st date goes ahead.

According to the Times, the Government is prioritising ending social distancing guidelines, but will likely leave guidance around masking and working from home in place.

The Treasury is prioritising the end of the “one metre plus” distancing rule and the “rule of six” indoors, which is viewed as crucial to supporting hospitality and retail and helping the economy to recover. Ministers also want to end rules that limit mass gatherings so that festivals, concerts and sporting events can go ahead…

In an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus, masks could still be required on public transport and in indoor public spaces. Guidance stating that people must work from home if they can may also remain in place. Boris Johnson is expected to make a decision on which restrictions can be lifted within the next fortnight.

For some Government advisers, even unlocking partially on June 21st would be going too far. According to SAGE member Professor Andrew Hayward, there is a “good argument” for delaying the end of lockdown until a “much higher proportion” of the population has been fully vaccinated (a sentiment recently echoed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock).

He told Today on BBC Radio 4: “It’s still going to be a few weeks yet until we’ve got all of the highly clinically vulnerable double-vaccinated and that will probably coincide with the plans to open up more fully. When we do open up more fully, instead of [cases of the Indian variant] doubling every week, it’s likely to double more frequently than that. I think there is a good argument for caution until we’ve got a much higher proportion double-vaccinated.”

The Times report is worth reading in full.

We Shouldn’t Vaccinate Children as a Matter of Principle Because of the Side Effects, Says Government Vaccine Adviser

Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol and a member of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), was on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (around the 50 minute mark) taking a surprisingly strong line against vaccinating children because of the “side effects”. Here’s an edited transcript of what he said:

The main priority at the moment is to try and immunise as many people as possible who are at risk of getting really sick with this virus, because that’s the one thing we want avoid is another big surge of hospitalisations and deaths, and that isn’t going to happen in children. … Children are very rarely seriously affected by this infection. …

The evidence we’ve got with children, particularly young children, is that they are not very infectious to each other or to adults around them and that the majority of the transmission of the infection is in the adult population in fact. …

There is a certain amount of transmission going in secondary schools, so in teenagers, but in fact we’ve been surprised about how little transmission we’ve picked up in schools and of course this time around there’s been a lot more testing and awareness of what’s going in schools. …

In normal times, just as in pandemic times, we simply wouldn’t want to immunise anybody without needing to. It’s an invasive thing to do, it costs money, and it causes a certain amount of discomfort, and vaccines have side effects. So if we can control this virus without immunising children we shouldn’t immunise children as a matter of principle. …

I’m optimistic that we in particular in the U.K., with the high coverage we’re achieving and the extremely effective vaccine we’ve got, that we can achieve population immunity and I’m afraid it’s an open question as to whether we need to immunise any children at all and if we do how many children we need to immunise.

This is quite a change of tune for Professor Finn, who last month told BBC Breakfast that children had been “left behind” in vaccination and vaccine trials, saying: “We’re impatient now to get on and do the necessary trials in children so that these vaccines can start to be used, and actually circumstances are holding us back so it’s a very frustrating situation to be in.”

He did add, though, that side-effects appeared to be worse in younger people: “There is evidence for more or less all of the vaccines against Covid that the side-effect rate, the reactogenicity that we see, basically goes up the younger you are.”

At the time of these earlier comments the AstraZeneca trials in children were paused while the MHRA investigated blood clot links. What has Professor Finn seen since then that persuaded him that maybe vaccinating children isn’t so pressing after all? Is this a sign that the side-effects, at least in the young, are beginning to be taken seriously by the Government?

Vaccine Immunity “Won’t Just Disappear” in Face Of Covid Variants, Says JCVI Member

A member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says claims that the Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown could be “scuppered” by Covid variants are “pessimistic”, saying that the immunity gained from vaccines “won’t just disappear”. The Evening Standard has the story.

Imported coronavirus variants are unlikely to set lockdown easing back to “square one” because immunity from vaccines “won’t just disappear”, according to a key figure on the UK’s immunisation committee.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI, said he expected a “gradual erosion” of vaccine protection as the virus evolves but not enough to “scupper” the Prime Minister’s road map, as one leading scientist had predicted.

Imperial College’s Danny Altmann said on Friday that “we should be terribly concerned” about the discovery of 77 cases of the Indian Covid variant in Britain. He is quoted in a Sky News report:

[Covid variants] are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave. They are a worry.

But Professor Finn of the JCVI said he thought the immunology expert’s assessment was “a bit pessimistic”.

We’ve all expected evolution of this virus to occur from the start.

I also think that we know from other viruses and previous experience that the immunity that vaccines give won’t just disappear.

It will be a gradual erosion. It won’t be back to square one. I would be really surprised if that happened.

So, I think, possibly, that interpretation is a bit pessimistic.

He added, however, that “we’re going to need to continue to be really quite careful” and that many aspects of life, including overseas travel, “won’t go back to normal yet” as we need to “avoid moving the virus around”.

The Evening Standard’s report is worth reading in full.

“If You Were to Release at this Point in Time, it Would Lead to a Lot of Death.” Texas, Florida and Mississippi Would Beg to Differ, Professor

There follows a guest post by second year maths student and Lockdown Sceptics contributor Glen Bishop.

Having listened to an interview on talkRadio with Professor Jeremy Brown of the National Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises SAGE, I thought I would offer a critique of some of the points he made. 

Firstly, Professor Brown stated: “If you were to release at this point in time, that is a mistake, and it would lead to a lot of death and illness.” This has not been the experience elsewhere and so as far as I am concerned is an unscientific claim. Florida released all restrictions in September and still has a significantly lower death toll than the UK. Texas released all restrictions over three weeks ago and cases have continued to fall sharply. In Mississippi, all restrictions were lifted four weeks ago. In the subsequent four weeks, the seven-day average case numbers have more than halved. This is despite these states being behind the UK on vaccines and the Kent variant making up a significant proportion of cases. If it has not happened elsewhere in the world, in places with lower population immunity from prior infection and worse vaccine progress, what makes Professor Brown so sure it will happen here?  

What is happening in Europe now is not relevant to the UK as, judging from our death rate, we have built up more population immunity from prior infection than most of Europe and are miles ahead with inoculations. 

Secondly, Professor Brown enlightened listeners with his thinking on the pandemic’s path, albeit conceding it is “a little simplistic”. He describes how the pandemic has hit in three waves, each causing 50,000 deaths and suggests another wave – a fourth wave – could lead to a similar death toll and scenes akin to the January wave. This is a poor representation of the epidemic to put it mildly, but I will run with this logic. Assume a fourth wave hits that, without vaccinations, would kill another 50,000 people. Around 95% of vulnerable people – the people who would be killed in Brown’s scenario – have actually had a vaccine, which trials show reduces deaths by 95%. That means a fourth wave would in theory claim, not 50,000, but 4,875 deaths. How do I get that figure? First, it would infect 5% of the vulnerable who haven’t been vaccinated and 5% of 50,000 is 2,500. Second, it would still kill 5% of the remaining 95% of the vulnerable population who would have died but have been vaccinated, since the vaccines only reduce death by 95% – so 0.05 x 0.95 x 50,000 = 2,375. 2,500 + 2,375 = 4,875.

So 2,375 will die in the fourth wave in spite of not being vaccinated – roughly 10% of the number of the 22,000 influenza deaths during the 2017 to 2018 winter. Certainly not a number worthy of any response beyond sensible advice. Anyone advocating anything other than sensible public health advice for this scale of viral death is just being hysterical and illogical. If they haven’t been advocating the same things for influenza every previous winter, what makes them do it now? Is it because they are caught up in the hysteria and groupthink gripping SAGE and the country? Why treat this differently just because the media enjoy talking about it? 

Of the other group in this hypothetical scenario of Professor Brown’s – the 2,500 unvaccinated deaths – it is their choice not to take a vaccine and they should accept the consequences.

Professor Brown should feel free to lock himself away for the rest of time if he wants to make sure he isn’t putting the ‘vaccine hesitant’ community at risk, but he shouldn’t advocate forcing the rest of sane society to do so. What next? A ban on car travel because some people refuse to wear seat belts and it puts them at risk of dying? A ban on ‘do not resuscitate’ wishes from patients? Do SAGE want to ban sex outside of committed relationships because some people do not use condoms and could spread STDs? What about “a circuit breaker on sex” whilst we do mass testing for STDs and make everyone get a “coitus passport”, so the plebs can only fornicate if they have tested negative for chlamydia, herpes, and HIV? If Professor Brown insists on advocating one set of restrictions, it is illogical not to advocate the others.  

If it is acceptable to restrict other people’s civil liberties because some people aren’t sensible with their own health, then I suppose Professor Brown will be getting to work advocating the banning of cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate, and junk food. Eradicating them from society may lead to a far greater increase in QALYs than eradicating Covid will, now that we have very effective vaccines. 78,000 die from smoking each year alone. Perhaps I ought not be giving Professor Brown these ideas. If you read this Professor, please don’t suggest them in your next JCVI meeting. You’ve done enough damage to civil liberties as it is.