The rate of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccinations in the UK has slowed down over the past weeks. Even though the country is one of the most vaccinated in the world, the number of infections has picked up recently.
According to government data, between 100,000 and 300,000 people were vaccinated daily in June, peaking at 299,837 people on June 22nd. From July 4 onwards, the number fell to below 100,000. On July 5th, only 76,962 citizens received a shot.
On April 1, 46.1 percent of UK citizens had received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. This number rose to 67.2 percent by July 7. However, the number of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people surged from 66.55 to 401.23 during this period. Despite first dose vaccinations rising by 45 percent during this period, the number of new daily infections rose by 502 percent.
According to a joint study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), the UK Biocentre, and the University of Oxford, 89.8 percent of the adult population is believed to carry antibodies as of June 14, either due to past infection or as a result of vaccination. Between June 14 and July 7, new daily coronavirus cases per million people jumped 273 percent from 107.33 to 401.23.
Interestingly, men seem to be disproportionately affected by the latest wave of infections. According to a study of 47,000 UK citizens by scientists at the Imperial College between June 24 and July 5, “risk among men was around 30% higher than that among women.”
Among UK citizens aged 18 and older, 87.1% are partially vaccinated and 66% are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 10. The British government is now debating whether or not to expand the campaign to children.
However, many medical experts oppose the idea. A Daily Mail report cites three recent research studies published on preprint server medRxiv, which showed that children face a very low risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. The studies were conducted by researchers at University College London, the University of York, and the University of Liverpool.
According to one preprint study published on July 8, SARS-CoV-2 viral infections only accounted for 25 (0.8 percent) out of 3,105 child deaths during the first year of the pandemic, “equivalent to an infection fatality rate of 5 per 100,000 and a mortality rate of 2 per million.” During the same period, 268 children died from trauma and 124 died from suicide.
The authors concluded that since the demographic has an “extremely low” risk of death, removing kids from social events and schools might prove to be “a greater risk” than the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Another preprint study found that hospitalized children and young people (CYP) at “greatest vulnerability of severe disease or death from SARS-CoV-2 infection are infants, teenagers, those with cardiac or neurological conditions, or 2 or more comorbid conditions, and those who are obese.”
A third preprint study evaluated the risk factors of intensive care unit (ICU) admission and death among CYP during the first year of the pandemic. Of 12.02 million individuals between 0 and 17 years old in the UK in 2020, 251 individuals, or 1 in 47,903, were admitted to the pediatric ICU.
Additionally, 309 CYP, or 1 in 38,911, were admitted to an ICU with paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS-TS), a rare systemic illness in children following SARS-CoV-2 exposure. The authors concluded that “CYP were at very low risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19 or PIMS-TS.”
Professor Russell Viner, a senior author on two of the studies, stated that the findings prove the risk of illness and death from COVID-19 is very low in kids and youngsters.
“Those young people at higher risk are those who are also at higher risk from any winter virus or other illness – that is, young people with multiple health conditions and complex disabilities… Our new findings are important as they will inform shielding guidance for young people as well as decisions about the vaccination of teenagers and children, not just in the UK but internationally,” Viner said to Daily Mail.
In an interview with The Guardian, Professor Adam Finn of Bristol University stated, “Children transmit Covid to some extent, although they rarely suffer badly from the disease themselves. If you offer them vaccines, then you put them at risk of possible side-effects – so there really needs to be some significant, tangible benefit to them, not just the indirect protection of adults from Covid-19.”
With reporting by Arvind Datta.