Read original article here
Here’s a recap of today’s top news:
- Boris Johnson outlined the Government’s winter “plan B” which involved: the potential reintroduction of face mask mandates, the return of work from home guidance and vaccine passports for large events
The Prime Minister said it was “just not sensible” to rule out re-introducing Covid restrictions now. As he addressed the nation, Mr Johnson stressed that he could not “rule out completely” the possibility of imposing measures such as mandatory vaccine passports and face masks
- Sajid Javid said the UK had cancelled its vaccine contract with French pharma firm Valneva because the jab would not have been approved by the MHRA
- The Government took on rapper Nicki Minaj in an unpredictable turn of events after the star shared vaccine disinformation posts on social media yesterday – leading the Prime Minister to say he preferred to listen to Dr Nikki Kanani rather than Nicki Minaj about vaccines
- The JCVI recommended the start of the booster jab programme, with third doses of either the Pfizer vaccine or a half dose of Moderna set to be administered to over-50s
- Vaccines for 12- to 15-year-olds are ago, with Wales and Scotland to offer jabs to the age group within the next fortnight
Health leaders welcome winter Covid plans as ‘sensible and proportionate’
Health leaders have praised the Government’s winter Covid plans as “sensible and proportionate”, as the NHS prepares for a surge in admissions and appointments caused by both coronavirus and the pandemic backlog.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The situation in the NHS is far from ‘normal’ and we expect this autumn and winter to be busier than ever for the health service.
“That’s why, alongside the ongoing vaccination and testing and tracing programmes, trust leaders will broadly welcome the Government’s plan to keep a wider range of Covid-19 measures under close review.”
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) stressed that workforce shortages remain a problem, insisting that health and care staff are not an “inexhaustible resource”.
The British Medical Association (BMA) welcomed the booster jab programme but said vaccines alone would not be enough “to curtail the escalating impact of Covid infections”.
Businesses warn PM of uncertainty over winter Covid plans
Businesses have warned that Boris Johnson’s winter Covid plan will create even more damaging uncertainty after being told that staff could once again be told to work from home if possible.
Bosses fear that a burgeoning effort to get staff back to their desks risks being derailed by the Covid winter blueprint, which will encourage remote working, impose mandatory masks and insist on vaccine passports at large venues if cases start to put pressure on the NHS.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) warned that businesses are once again being left in the dark, and hospitality chiefs said the crisis was in danger of trashing public confidence amid signs footfall is finally climbing back towards normal levels.
Claire Walker, co-executive director of the BCC, said businesses will be “frustrated by the inability of the government to give them any detail around what circumstances could lead to new restrictions and what support firms could get”.
Read the full story here
People may fail to comply if restrictions return, says expert
A professor of public health has said people may be “very reluctant or resistant” to follow tougher restrictions if implemented this winter, following Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier today that the Government retained a ‘plan b’ option, due to the success of the vaccination programme.
Professor Linda Bauld told Sky News that receiving vaccine had been seen as part of a “social contract” – i.e. if you got jabbed, we could return to normal.
As a result of this, she said, “if we have to take a big step back, there would be behaviourally many more challenges to deal with”.
She added that many of the measures included in the Government’s ‘plan B’ were “protections, not restrictions”, such as vaccine passports and mandatory face masks.
Africa has not been given fair chance to buy jabs, says official
The African Union’s special envoy for Covid-19 has accused vaccine manufacturers of limiting the continent’s ability to purchase their own vaccines – and said manufacturers “know very well” that jabs went to richer nations instead.
Out of 5.7 billion Covid vaccine doses administered around the world, only 2 per cent have been in Africa – despite the continent making up roughly 16-17 per cent of the world’s population.
Strive Masiyiwa, speaking at a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing, said the world “could have handled this very differently”.
He said the African Union and its partners had expected to buy half the doses needed with the other half coming through the COVAX vaccine-sharing programme, but they had struggled with access to buying jabs.
“Vaccine sharing is good – but we shouldn’t have to be relying on vaccine sharing, particularly when we can come to the table with structures in place and say we also want to buy,” he said.
UK records 26,628 new Covid cases and a further 185 deaths
The UK has recorded 26,628 new cases of Covid-19 and a further 185 deaths within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.
The figures compare with 30,825 cases and 61 fatalities reported yesterday, while 37,489 cases and 209 deaths were reported this time last week.
More than 10pc of infected Israeli children suffering from long Covid
More than 10 per cent of children who caught Covid-19 in Israel are suffering from possible long Covid, the country’s health ministry has estimated.
Of those who reported long-term symptoms, 1.8 per cent of children under 12 and 4.6 per cent aged 12 to 18 still had issues six months after their illness.
In total, 11.2 per cent of children who caught coronavirus reported symptoms of long Covid, according to a survey of parents of 13,864 children.
Anti-disinformation Government takes on… Nicki Minaj
Both Boris Johnson and Professor Chris Whitty answered questions about rapper Nicki Minaj at earlier’s press conference, after the star sparked a social media row yesterday for sharing Covid-19 vaccine disinformation.
The Prime Minister said he was “not as familiar with the works of Nicki Minaj as I probably should be” – and Minaj replied on Twitter saying she was a “big, big star in the United States”.
Prof Whitty had said anyone spreading “untruths” about vaccines should be “ashamed” – to which Minaj responded saying she loved his accent even if the message was a “diss”.
Booster jabs a ‘slap in the face’ to global south, says campaign group
Campaign group Global Justice Now has called the Government’s decision to offer a third ‘booster’ vaccine to all over-50s in the UK “a disgrace” considering low vaccination rates in low and middle-income countries around the world.
Global Justice Now said the UK has pushed poorer countries “to the back of the queue” by rolling ahead with its booster programme and urged ministers to support efforts to waive patents on Covid vaccines and treatments.
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: “This announcement is a slap in the face to the billions of people living in countries that cannot access first shots, let alone a third.
“The real scandal is that this doesn’t need to be a choice – we could be producing far more vaccines if only the British Government would stop putting Big Pharma profit ahead of lives around the world.
“Today, at the World Trade Organisation, ministers have an opportunity to heal the great vaccine divide by supporting efforts to waive intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, which will radically upscale global vaccine production.
“If the UK continues to block the waiver, it will be yet another blow to international vaccination efforts.”
Vaccinating the world remains more important than boosters, says UNICEF
The UK’s booster vaccination programme will benefit millions of people, but vaccinating a larger proportion of vulnerable and elderly people across the world remains a more important way of ending the pandemic, a UNICEF leader has said.
Joanna Rea, director of Advocacy at the UK Committee for UNICEF, said: “Millions of people in the UK will benefit from the Government’s vaccine booster programme.
“Even more crucial to ending the global pandemic, however, is ensuring that all unvaccinated high-risk groups and health workers all over the world also have access to Covid-19 vaccines.
“Only 20 per cent of people in low and lower-middle-income countries have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, compared to 80 per cent in higher income countries like the UK.
“While the UK Government’s commitment to donate 100 million doses to COVAX – including 30 million in 2021 – is a critical step in addressing this worrying imbalance, the speed and volume of dose sharing must urgently increase in 2021 through COVAX.
“The UK Government must fulfil its promise now to ensure high-risk groups and health workers in low and middle income countries receive vaccines. This is the only way to protect us all from variants of the virus, and put an end to this pandemic for good.”
France’s Valneva vaccine ‘would not get UK approval’
Sajid Javid has said the Government cancelled its vaccine contract with French pharmaceutical firm Valneva because it would not have been approved by the UK’s regulator.
The Health Secretary said the decision to cancel the contract, for around 100 million vaccine doses, was made because the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) would likely not approve the jab.
Mr Javid said: “There are commercial reasons that we have cancelled the contract but what I can tell her is that it was also clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval by the MHRA here in the UK.”
Valneva said the Government had alleged it was “in breach of its obligations” under the deal to supply the vaccine, which it is currently developing at its facility in Livingston, West Lothian.
The UK had ordered 100 million doses of the Valneva vaccine, with the amount to be supplied upped by 40 million back in February.
Mandatory Covid passports will be kept ‘up Government’s sleeve’
Asked why we are not using vaccine passports, Boris Johnson says he has “never been in favour” of using them for pubs but that there are settings, such as nightclubs and large music venues, where “they might be appropriate”.
Prof Whitty says that “nobody would doubt that you are safer going to a venue where everybody in an environment is vaccinated”.
The Prime Minister adds that the reason for wanting to have the option of vaccine passports is that it may come down to “a choice between proceeding with covid certification or sadly asking places to close”.
He says that this is why he wants to keep Covid certification “up our sleeves”.
People ‘peddling untruths’ about vaccines should be ‘ashamed’, says Prof Whitty
The Prime Minister says that “fixing that gap” between the vaccinated and non-vaccinated should be the focus.
Asked how concerned he is about public figures, such as Nicki Minaj, spreading Covid-19 vaccine misinformation, Prof Whitty says there are “a number of myths” circulating and he asked the media to not “give credence” to them by mentioning them.
He said those people “peddling untruths” should be “ashamed”.
Boris Johnson adds he prefers to listen to Dr Nikki Kanani rather than Nicki Minaj about vaccines.
‘We reserve the right’ to implement regulations, says the Prime Minister
Asked about containing variants, Prof Whitty says “certinaly new variants are something we need to look seriously at” and that the highly transmissible delta variant is very bad.
He adds that Plan B could be triggered if the delta variant proves to get significantly worse in the winter.
He said that if a new variant escaped vaccine protection and was highly transmissible, we would be “in a new position”.
Prof Whitty encourages mask-wearing in confined spaces and in a situation where someone asked for a mask to be worn.
However, he clarifies that mask wearing “is a recommendation” and “not something the Government has put into regulation.”
“We reserve the right” to tighten regulations, the PM adds.
Booster jabs ‘broaden the coverage against variants’, says Sir Patrick Vallance
Sir Patrick says we are “at that pivot point” where things are “flatish” at the moment but if cases and hospitalisations increase, the Government must act quickly.
However, he adds: “These vaccines are really good…far more effective than we could have dared hope for at the beginning.”
He says that booster jabs “broaden the coverage against variants” and result in high levels of antibodies.
We may force you to wear face masks again, warns Boris Johnson
The Prime Minister has warned that the Government is keeping the option of making face masks mandatory again as he set out his winter plan, Gareth Davies writes.
Boris Johnson has warned that higher levels of coronavirus cases mean that “in one way our position today is actually more challenging” than last September.
While he insisted the Government was “going to keep going” with the coronavirus strategy despite the risks, if cases soar, the Government has a “Plan B” in mind.
Part of the “toolbox” that could potentially be used in this instance would be to “keep option the option of mandating face coverings and advising people to work from home”.
Vaccination rate is why PM is not implementing measures to suppress Covid now
Robert Peston from ITV asks what the argument is for not taking mild suppressive measures now to curb the spread of Covid.
The Prime Minister says the vaccines have made a “huge difference” in reducing mortality and that the Government continues to advise everybody to be “sensible”.
Plan A includes recommending face masks when in a confined space, getting tested when unwell and hand washing.
Mr Johnson adds that the priority should be the five million people who could have received a vaccination but have not done so yet.
“You are overwhelmingly more likely to die or suffer severe disease if you are not vaccianted,” he says.
PM ‘confident’ the Government can proceed with Plan A
Preventing the overwhelming of the NHS remains the “objective”, the Prime Minister says.
He adds that the Government is “confident” that it can proceed with Plan A, but that if Plan B needed to be implemented, it would not be done all at once.
“Smaller changes can have a bigger impact,” he says.
Sir Patrick says that the country’s high levels of immunity is helping but that it is important to keep an eye on hospitalisations.
“The immunity is really important to keep this down and allows lighter measures to be put in place to keep (Covid) under control,” he adds.
“When you make a move you have to go earlier than you want to and harder than you want to,” he says, adding: “It’s important the measures are put in place early enough and significant enough”.
Prof Whitty: We are entering the winter with higher cases, deaths and hospital admissions than 2020
Showing the final slide, Prof Whitty says we are entering the winter with higher levels of Covid-19 deaths, cases and hospital admissions than this time last year.
“If you have not had your vaccination, now is a very good time,” he adds.
Prof Whitty: Number of people dying from Covid is ‘drifting up’
Professor Chris Whitty is showing the slides of Covid-19 trends in the UK.
He says the “good news” is that the number of people dying from Covid is “significantly lower” than last year.
He adds the numbers are “gradually drifting up, but very slowly.”
Prof Whitty shows an additional slide of Public Health England data, showing the number of peope in hospital receiving emergency treatment for Covid-19, by vaccination status.
He says that “in every age there is a very substantially smaller proportion” of receiving emergency care for Covid if vaccinated.
“Someone in their 30s who is not vaccinated is running the same level of risk as someone in their 70s who is vaccinated,” he adds.
‘Not sensible’ to rule out Covid certification now, says PM
On Covid certification, Mr Johnson says it is “not sensible” to rule out this kind of option now.
However, it might be used if it means the difference between closing businesses or not.
“We will keep option the option of mandating face coverings and advising people to work from home,” the Prime Minister adds.
He said that because a large proportion of the country has been immunised, it means the Government has to implement “smaller” changes.
In the meantime, he says, the vaccines continue to protect the public.
“We are now motoring ahead with the booster programme,” he adds, saying the Government has secured vaccines for all of the UK.
“We can continue with our plan to turn jabs, jabs, jabs into jobs, jobs, jobs,” Mr Johnson says.
Boris Johnson: ‘We will keep further measures in reserve’
Boris Johnson has begun the Downing Street press conference by asking people to cast their mind’s back to September 2020.
“Our position today is actually more challenging,” he says, with “thousands more” daily cases.
However, the Prime Minister says that the result of the vaccination campaign is that we have one of the “most free societies and open economies” in Europe and that Britain is “incomparably better placed to fight the disease”.
In this way, he says he wants to “keep going with this strategy”.
“We will keep further measures in reserve”, he adds.
What is the Government’s winter ‘plan B’?
Sajid Javid confirmed earlier today that the Government has a ‘plan B’ in place for over the winter which will be used if pressure on the NHS becomes “unsustainable”.
Under plan B, the following will be put in place:
- The public will be asked to exercise more caution with Covid
- Mandatory vaccine passports will be implemented in certain settings
- Compulsory mask wearing will be implemented in certain settings
- Work from home guidance could return for a period
- However, the Health Secretary said the UK should be able to handle another wave of infections without lockdown
Scottish children able to get Covid jab from Monday
Children aged between 12 and 15 will be offered the Covid-19 vaccine in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Speaking to MSPs, the First Minister said the Scottish government was accepting the recommendation of the UK’s chief medical officers and said drop-in clinics will be open to young people of that age group from Monday.
She said: “I can confirm to Parliament today that the Scottish government welcomes and accepts this recommendation. We believe that vaccination of 12- to 15-year-olds is important and we will therefore move to implement the advice as quickly as possible.
“It is, of course, important to stress the importance of informed consent.
“I know that many young people and their parents will have questions.
“Material will be made available online later this week.”
The age group will receive a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine, with people able to book advance appointments from September 27.
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that Scots over the age of 50, working in frontline health care or with specific health conditions will be offered a booster vaccination.
UK has delivered just 7pc of Covid jabs promised to Covax
The UK has delivered less than seven per cent of the vaccines it has promised to donate to developing countries, coming near the bottom in what critics are calling a “league table of shame”.
Data compiled by Our World in Data, a research hub based at the University of Oxford, show the world’s major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered.
The data looks at donations to Covax, the initiative to share vaccines globally, and finds that of the 554 million doses promised by the world’s richest nations, only 90.8 million or 16 per cent have actually been delivered.
The UK is the second biggest pledger of vaccines after the United States, promising 80 million doses to Covax.
But it is towards the bottom of the league table when it comes to delivery.
So far it has only delivered 5.1 million doses, just 6.38 per cent of what it has promised.
Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union’s Vaccine Taskforce, told The Telegraph that “in an Olympic year, with all that’s meant to represent, this is definitely the global solidarity league table of shame”.
Worst fears over Covid impact on world’s poorest countries did not materialise
Covid has led to the most “dramatic setback” in progress on improving the lives of the world’s poorest in a generation, a new report has found – but the impact was not as bad as initially feared.
While extreme poverty has increased, millions of children have missed out on routine vaccinations and inequality has deepened, there is still room for hope, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Report insists.
The annual report tracks progress on 18 global development targets in health, sanitation, poverty, economic development and education.
Mark Suzman, chief executive of the Gates Foundation, told journalists that the pandemic hit the world after more than 20 years of steady gains.
“Covid has caused the most dramatic setback to development momentum in a generation,” said Mr Suzman. “But on one level, the silver lining is that the consequences are not quite as they looked like they were going to be a year ago.”
At one point, experts feared that childhood vaccination rates would return to levels last seen 25 years ago, when immunisation was in the doldrums.
However, while 30 million children did miss out on life-saving jabs in 2020 – 10 million more because of the pandemic – immunisation rates only fell back to 2005 levels.
Read the full story here
Almost 6 million over-16s still unvaccinated in UK
Sajid Javid has urged all remaining eligible adults and teenagers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 to protect the UK from the virus.
Addressing the Commons, the Health Secretary said: “Almost six million people over the age of 16 remain unvaccinated in the UK, and the more people that are unvaccinated the larger the holes in our collective defences.”
He also announced that the booster programme, made up of Pfizer and Moderna doses, would start next week for people aged over 50 – who received their second dose six months ago – to protect against the virus “for the long-term”.
Sajid Javid: Government ‘intends to do more’ to ensure GPs are offering face-to-face appointments
Sajid Javid insisted more GPs should be offering face-to-face appointments with patients, adding that the Government “intends to do a lot more” to ensure it happens.
Conservative MP Dean Russell raised concerns over some GP surgeries in his Watford constituency “still not opening their doors” to see patients, adding: “Does he agree with me that we should encourage those GP surgeries to start opening up to help with the backlog and help see people face-to-face?”
Mr Javid replied: “Yes, I agree with (Mr Russell). He’s right to raise this.
“I think everyone can understand why during the height of the pandemic that GPs couldn’t provide access in the normal way.
“But we’re way past that now, life is starting to return almost back to completely normal and as that is happening it should be happening in our GP surgeries too, and more GPs should be offering face-to-face access.
“We intend to do a lot more about it.”
ABTA chief calls for PCR tests to be scrapped for fully-vaccinated
Covid-19 testing should be scrapped for fully-vaccinated holidaymakers, industry body ABTA has said.
ABTA, which represents 4,300 travel brands, said bookings were down 83 per cent this summer compared to pre-pandemic levels, and said costly private testing has contributed to the decline.
It said many of its members are planning more job cuts when the furlough scheme ends in September due to the difficult season.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive, said: “The Government’s travel requirements have choked off this summer’s travel trade – putting jobs, businesses and the UK’s connectivity at risk.”
It echoed calls from the aviation industry in asking the Government to scrap PCR testing for fully-vaccinated travellers returning to the UK.
Jeremy Hunt asks if mental health backlog will get equal attention
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked the Government if it will commit to dealing with the backlog in mental health treatments “every bit as seriously” as the backlog in physical health.
He said to MPs: “Will he [Sajid Javid] commit that the backlog in mental health treatments will be treated every bit as seriously as the backlog in physical health and in particular, that the NHS and the Government will continue to continue to hear to the Mental Health Investment standard, which says that mental health spending will increase at a higher rate that overall NHS spending, particularly when it comes to the extra money coming from the levy, because parity of esteem is supported from all sides of the house, legislated for in this House.
“There is a lot of worry in the mental health world that the money from the levy will not reflect the needs of the mental health backlog.”
Sajid Javid thanked Mr Hunt for his suggestions and said the Government is absolutely committed to parity of esteem.
He said: “I want to take this opportunity to reassure everyone who is particularly concerned and may have raised this issue with him that that commitment remains and also this new funding that will go over the next three years to help deal with the backlog absolutely includes mental health funding.”
Sajid Javid: Government will retain some ‘essential’ powers
Sajid Javid said the Government will remove more of its powers but retain some it deems “essential” for responding to the pandemic.
The Health Secretary told MPs: “This includes expiring more of the powers in the Coronavirus Act. So, for example, those powers directing the temporary closure of educational institutions.
“The remaining provisions will be those that are critical to the Government’s response to the pandemic.
“For example, making sure that the NHS is properly resourced and supporting statutory sick pay for those self-isolating.”
Sajid Javid: Test and trace and regular testing to continue
Sajid Javid has said Test and Trace, regular asymptomatic testing and support for those self-isolating who are eligible will continue.
The Health Secretary told the Commons: “Testing, tracing and self-isolating have been another vital defence.
“Over the autumn and winter, PCR testing for those with Covid-19 symptoms and contacts of confirmed cases will continue to be available free of charge.
“Regular asymptomatic testing which identifies currently around a quarter of all reported cases, will also continue in the coming months with a focus on those who are not fully vaccinated, perhaps those in education or in other higher risk settings.
“And contact tracing will continue through the NHS Test and Trace system.
“We don’t want people to face hardship as they carry out their duty to self-isolate, so for those that are still required to self-isolate we will keep offering practical and financial support to people who are eligible and need assistance.
“And we will review these regulations and this support by the end of March 2022.”
Labour: What level of infection would result in ‘plan B’ being introduced?
Jonathan Ashworth has asked Sajid Javid what level of infections the Government expects, and what level it will take to introduce the ‘plan B’ measures this winter – as cases as already higher today than they were last year.
Mr Javid responded that the Government was right to have a ‘plan B’ in place, with the involved measures coming into place only if pressures on the NHS become “unsustainable”.
The shadow health secretary asked Mr Javid whether regional lockdowns would be reintroduced as seen last year if cases spike in certain parts of the country, and added that the Government needs to push for businesses to improve ventilation in workplaces.
Mr Ashworth also called on the Government to make their stance on vaccine passports clearer – saying they are “zig-zagging all over the place” on the issue, with Mr Javid responding that the plans for passports “are not going ahead” but are rather being kept in reserve as an emergency option.
Sajid Javid: Masks and wfh could return under winter ‘plan B’
Sajid Javid said the Government has created a ‘plan B’ in case things get worse in winter.
The Health Secretary said this involves possibly reintroducing face mask mandates and advising people to work from home.
He told MPs: “We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change so we have prepared a ‘plan B’ of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
“These measures would be communicating clearly and urgently the need for caution. Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings.
“Whilst we’re not going ahead with mandatory vaccine-only Covid-status certification now, we will be holding that power in reserve. As well as these three steps, we’d consider a further measure of asking people to work from home if they can for a limited time if that is supported by the data.
“Any responsible government must prepare for all eventualities, and although these measures are not an outcome anyone wants, it’s one we need to be ready for just in case.”
Sajid Javid: Highly likely frontline NHS staff will have to be vaccinated
Sajid Javid has told MPs that “it is highly likely that frontline NHS staff” will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to carry out their usual duties and retain their current roles.
The move comes after the Government already announced care home workers would have to be vaccinated to carry out patient-facing duties.
The Health Secretary also said that people should be wearing a face mask in crowded places and in spaces with strangers to protect themselves.
Some MPs could be heard protesting at this suggestion.
Sajid Javid: Booster programme will start next week
Sajid Javid has said the Government will “renew our efforts to maximise uptake” of the vaccine, coming amid recommendations to start vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds.
The Health Secretary told MPs that booster jabs are an important way of maximising protection against the virus, and said he has accepted the JCVI’s advice to begin the programme for those aged over-50, care home residents and frontline health and social care workers.
He said the programme will begin next week.
Sajid Javid: UK ‘must be vigilant’ during winter to keep pandemic under control
Sajid Javid has started his address to MPs in Commons on the Government’s winter Covid plan, and began by offering his condolences to Boris Johnson whose mother passed away on Monday.
The Health Secretary said the UK must remain “vigilant” throughout this winter, the season which provides ideal conditions for a rapid spread of the virus.
Mr Javid said that “the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths has weakened significantly since the start of the pandemic” but there is “likely to be a lot of non-Covid demand on the NHS, including the flu and norovirus”.
He also said that 81 per cent of people over 16 have now had two doses of the vaccine.
Booster jabs necessary to avoid rise in hospitalisations
When asked why booster jabs are necessary considering there is only a small decrease in immunity months after the second dose, Professor Wei Shen Lim from the JCVI said this small drop in immunity can still lead to a large rise in hospital admissions.
He said: “If we are running at a vaccine effectiveness of let’s say 90 per cent, and it drops to 80 per cent, it may not seem like very much.
“But for a certain proportion of people who are being admitted to hospital when vaccine effectiveness is at 90 per cent then you double the drop, you might find that you are doubling the number of people who are admitted to hospital.
“So it does have a big impact because we’re talking about the entire population here and not just a single individual.”
Wales to offer jabs to 12- to 15-year-olds from next week
Wales is to offer Covid-19 vaccinations to all children aged between 12 and 15, the Welsh government has announced.
Eluned Morgan, the minister for health and social services, told a government briefing she had accepted the advice of the UK’s chief medical officers to offer jabs to children.
She said: “You will remember last week the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation considered the question of vaccinating all 12- to 15-year-olds and advised against a universal vaccination programme.
“However, it did recommend the chief medical officers should look at the wider health and wellbeing benefits of vaccination for this age group.
“After careful consideration, the chief medical officers have recommended offering children and teenagers in this age group the vaccination based on public health grounds, saying it will help to reduce the disruption to their education.
“Today I have accepted this advice and we will now begin preparations to invite 12- to 15-year-olds who have not yet been vaccinated to have a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
“And that rollout will start next week.”
JCVI chair says six-month gap between second jab and booster offers ‘sweet spot’
Professor Wei Shen Lim, of the JCVI, said the recommendation of at least a six-month gap between the second jab and a booster shot was an attempt to find a “sweet spot”.
He said: “We want to suggest a six-month limit as a lower limit because we don’t want people to feel they need to rush to have this booster dose.
“Getting a booster dose too early might mean getting a dose when they don’t actually need to have vaccination because they still have a high level of protection.
“And, as we have seen with the first and second dose, it may be that a longer interval to the third booster dose may actually be beneficial in the longer term.
“On the other hand, we don’t want to wait too long before offering a booster dose, so trying to find a sweet spot between going too soon and going too late we are suggesting that the booster dose is given no earlier than six months after the second dose.
“Hopefully, this will mean that the levels of protection people have will be highest during the coldest months of the winter.”
JCVI chair ‘strongly advises’ people receive third dose
Professor Wei Shen Lim, the chair of Covid-19 Immunisation for the JCVI, said: “The UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has been hugely successful in protecting people against hospitalisation and death, and the main aim of the booster programme is to prolong that protection and reduce serious disease as we head towards the colder months.
“The JCVI is advising that a booster dose be offered to the more vulnerable, to maximise individual protection ahead of an unpredictable winter.
“Most of these people will also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and we strongly advise them to take up this offer as well.”
Prof Van-Tam: ‘Bumpy’ winter ahead as pandemic not over
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, has warned of a “bumpy” winter ahead, as he set out the plans for Covid-19 booster jabs.
He said vaccines had been “incredibly successful” and had so far prevented an estimated 24 million coronavirus cases and 112,000 deaths from the virus.
He added: “We also know that this pandemic is still active. We are not past the pandemic, we are in an active phase still.
“We know that this winter could quite possibly be bumpy at times and we know that other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV are highly likely to make their returns.”
JCVI gives booster campaign the go-ahead
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Dr June Raine and Professor Wei Shen Lim are now speaking at a Downing Street news briefing.
The JCVI has recommended the booster campaign to be started, with the jab set to be given to over-50s six months after their second dose.
The preference will be a Pfizer dose, or a half-dose of the Moderna vaccine.
Prof Van-Tam said the UK has had “one of the most successful Covid vaccine programmes in the world”, which has since prevented 112,000 deaths.
Dr Raine, from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, confirmed that the Moderna jab was safe to use as a booster, and said coronavirus boosters could be given at the same time as flu jabs.
Care home workers launch legal action over ‘unlawful and unnecessary’ vaccine mandate
Care home staff have launched legal action over mandatory vaccination rules for the sector, calling it an “unlawful and unnecessary” restriction.
All care workers are required to have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Thursday, in order to be fully vaccinated by the times the rules come into force on 11 November.
However, a group of care staff are now seeking a judicial review against Sajid Javid, and are seeking a quashing order on the mandate.
The group claim that the Health Secretary failed to consider alternatives to mandatory vaccination and “did not consider the vaccination rate of care homes” ahead of making this decision.
They say the rules are “severe, unnecessary and disproportionate” and interfere with their right to “bodily integrity”.
Claimants added that mandatory vaccination could lead to shortages in care workers in England.
Freedom of choice campaigner Simon Dolan, who is funding the review, said: “It should not be the case that the government can intervene into the lives of the general public and dictate what medical procedures they do or do not have.”
Putin self-isolating after cases detected in his inner circle
Russian President Vladimir Putin will go into self-isolation after coronavirus cases were detected in his inner circle, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, reports Pjotr Sauer in Moscow
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had tested negative for Covid and was “absolutely healthy.”
A statement on the Kremlin website did not specify how long the president would be required to isolate for.
Putin, who said he has received both doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, has mostly held cabinet sessions and other government meetings via videoconference since the start of the pandemic.
He has also required many face-to-face visitors to observe a two-week quarantine before meeting him.
The Russian president is known for his caution regarding his personal health.
Putin has cancelled a trip to Tajikistan this week and will instead participate in a regional security meeting via video link.
‘We’re not out of the woods’, says Nervtag member
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said current data suggest that “we’re not out of the woods” and the Covid-19 figures “do not bode well for winter”.
He told Sky News: “We can see from the figures that we’re still nearing a thousand deaths a week and thousands of hospitalised patients that are challenging capacity in our hospitals – and of course making care for non-Covid patients extremely difficult as well because of the stretch of the staff that are in those hospitals who have been under pressure for 18 months now.
“So it’s pretty clear I think, from the data and from individual sources, that we’re not out of the woods and it doesn’t bode well for going into winter at all.”
He added: “If we cast our minds back to July 19, many scientists including myself, were saying that ‘we need to take this slowly because we have the transmission rates are far too high to be removing all restrictions, and this will have a knock on effect – in other words we wouldn’t get away with this as a country moving into winter’.
“And what we’re seeing now is really the result of that advice not being heeded and now we’re in a position where we’re talking about lockdowns again.
“So I think that with the correct planning, this could have been avoided.”
‘Less likely’ 12- or 13-year-old will be deemed competent
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said there will be a “grade of competency” based on age when considering whether a child’s decision to take the vaccine against a parent’s wishes can be honoured.
When asked whether he would feel comfortable about a 12-year-old child taking up their offer of a vaccine if their parent had not consented, he told the BBC Today Programme: “I wouldn’t feel comfortable about that.
“I think we have to be really careful that we go by the law, and the law clearly states that the child and parent should try to come to an agreed conclusion.
“But that if the child wants to go ahead or doesn’t want to go ahead and the parent feels absolutely the opposite, then the clinician involved in administering the vaccine needs to be absolutely sure that the child is competent to make that decision.
“There will be a grade of competency from the age of 16 downwards, so 14 to 15-year-olds may be deemed competent to make that decision on their own, it’s less likely that a 12 or 13-year-old will be deemed competent.”
JCVI member: Varying advice will cause vaccine hesitancy
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has admitted that varying advice on whether the vaccine should be given en masse to 12 to 15-year-olds from his committee versus the chief medical officers (CMOs) will cause “uncertainty, hesitation and debate” among families.
He told the BBC Today Programme: “What we tried to do right the way through the pandemic as a committee is to be open and honest with the public and give them the best advice possible…
“I think the public in the end will appreciate our honesty and I think they will also appreciate the CMOs’ perspective, and the Government offering them choice.
“I agree it will cause uncertainty, hesitation and debate within families, but sometimes life isn’t black and white, and this is one of those situations.”
He added that parents and children need to be “properly informed” and their choices on whether or not to have the vaccine should be “respected”.
Messaging around vaccinating children ‘hasn’t helped’, concedes public health expert
Professor Devi Sridhar, personal chair in global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said mixed messaging surrounding jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds “hasn’t helped”.
She told Good Morning Britain: “The mixed messaging hasn’t helped. I personally think part of it is because they were so late with a decision – we have just had the same evidence that other countries have had since May and June, and those countries ran ahead because they knew the school year was coming and started vaccinating their children.
“There hasn’t really been new evidence that’s come up in the UK shift in position, so I think part of that is why we have had mixed messaging – they’re trying to explain to people why they’re doing something now that they didn’t do two months ago.”
She added: “Every virologist I know, whether it’s in Germany or in France or in the States or Canada, have gotten their child vaccinated as soon as they become eligible, it hasn’t been something they struggled with, it’s been, ‘actually I want to protect my child as fast as possible’.”
Government to unveil winter blueprint with plans for booster jabs
The Government is to set out plans for Covid booster jabs as ministers unveil their blueprint for “living with the virus” through the winter.
It is expected all over-50s will be offered a third jab – starting with the over-70s and the most vulnerable.
The shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be administered at least six months after the second dose amid concerns the protection it gives to older people fades over time.
Ministers believe it will help ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed by new cases of the disease as it moves into the autumn and winter.
However, it has been criticised by some scientists, who argue the priority now should be to get the jab to those countries which have received only scant quantities of the vaccine.
Marginal benefit for vaccinating children, JCVI says
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), explained why there is a “marginal health benefit” for children with no underlying health concerns being vaccinated against coronavirus.
Prof Harnden told the BBC Today Programme: “What we have said on our committee is that there is a marginal health benefit from the vaccination.
“That’s because the risks of Covid to well young children is very small indeed, but the benefits of the vaccine are very small, because of the small risk of a very rare side effect.
“We felt that on balance that we couldn’t give advice based on the health benefits alone.
“But the CMOs (chief medical officers) have re-looked at this, and they’ve looked at a much wider thing about educational factors which were much outside our remit – such as school infection control, social isolation, school closures – and they felt that on balance there was more of a benefit in offering the vaccination.”
Vaccinating children over five ‘next issue on horizon’, says expert
The prospect of vaccinating children over five is the “next issue on the horizon”, an expert in public health said.
Professor Devi Sridhar, personal chair in global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told Good Morning Britain that Pfizer was applying for its vaccine to be used in over-fives in the US.
“The exciting thing on the horizon to mention, even for parents of younger kids,” she said.
“It looks like Pfizer is going for approval of the vaccine for five to 11 year olds in the United States in October so this is going to be the next issue on the horizon – once we deal with the 12-17 year olds whether we do that for the under-12s.”
Winter lockdown ‘absolutely last resort’, says vaccines minister
A winter lockdown would be an “absolutely last resort” in the face of rising Covid-19 cases in the colder months, according to a Government minister.
Speaking to Sky News, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Lockdowns would be an absolutely last resort.
“We’re about to embark on a massive booster campaign and of course a flu vaccination programme – I am concerned about flu, we haven’t had much flu circulating anywhere in the world, and in a bad year we could lose up to 25,000 people to flu.”
Asked whether he could guarantee families could spend Christmas together, the Conservative MP said: “The important thing to remember is that, as we embark on the winter months, viruses have an inbuilt advantage, whether it be flu or the Covid virus. As (England’s chief medical officer) Chris Whitty set out yesterday, it would be foolhardy to think this thing has already transitioned from pandemic to endemic.
“The direction we’re taking – a massive booster campaign, a varied surveillance system, a really fit for purpose test and trace system – that is where we think we will be able to end up, confident that we have the infrastructure in place to deliver on this.
“But of course, we have to have contingency planning. All the time we have information coming in on how the virus is behaving.
“Winter gives the virus an inbuilt advantage – boosters reduce that advantage by hopefully taking the most vulnerable out of harm’s way.”
Children can only overrule parents after meeting with clinician
Nadhim Zahawi said children would only be able to choose to have the coronavirus vaccine against their parents’ wishes following a meeting with a clinician.
The vaccines minister told Sky News: “Children will have a leaflet that they can share with their parents and of course we have a consent form that will go to them either electronically and, in some schools physically, to their parents, and their parents will then read all the information, have to give consent if the child is to be vaccinated.
“On the very rare occasion where there is a difference of opinion between the parent and the 12-15 year-old, where the parent for example doesn’t want to give consent but the 12-15 year-old wants to have the vaccine, then the first step is the clinician will bring the parent and the child together to see whether they can reach consent.
“If that is not possible, then if the child is deemed to be competent – and this has been around since the ’80s for all vaccination programmes in schools – if the child is deemed to be competent, Gillick competence as it is referred to, then the child can have the vaccine.
“But these are very rare occasions and it is very important to remember that the School Age Immunisation Service is incredibly well equipped to deal with this – clinicians are very well versed in delivering vaccinations to 12 to 15-year-olds in schools.”
Headteachers already threatened with legal action over vaccines for children
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary for the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), has said his members have already been threatened with legal action over vaccinating children.
He said: “What’s really important here is it’s not teachers or school leaders that are able to give advice to young people or parents about whether they should take up the voluntary vaccine or not, and that’s where our concerns lie at the moment.
“This advice and encouragement or whatever it’s to be has to come through the health service and the professionals that are trained and have the technical ability to give the advice for young people and their parents to make the decisions that will be necessary.
“If it’s done like that, hopefully we can avoid any unpleasantness in schools, but I have to say, members have received letters already from pressure groups threatening legal action against them as school leaders and teachers.
“If this takes place now this is a decision of the government rather than school leaders, and as I say it with the right with the right medical advice, then there shouldn’t be any need for things like that as long as people can make well informed decisions.”
How did it come to this?
The chances of a child dying from Covid is two in a million. It is more likely they will die getting hit by lightning. And yet on Monday, the Government unveiled plans for the mass vaccination of healthy 12- to 15-year-olds, Camilla Turner writes.
How did it come to this? The answer may lie in the chaos in schools over the past 18 months created by one disastrous policy after another, which has resulted in two years of cancelled exams and huge disruption to children’s education. The answer, or so ministers appear to believe, is to vaccinate pupils to try and keep schools rather than run the risk of yet another term of turmoil.
Today’s top stories
Parents will be asked to vaccinate their children to keep schools open and “reduce educational disruption”, the UK’s chief medical officers announced on Monday
Pre-departure tests for double-jabbed Britons returning to the UK face the axe under plans being considered by ministers to ease restrictions on foreign travel for holidaymakers
Only 59 fully vaccinated people without serious health conditions died from Covid-19 out of more than 50,000 deaths in England this year, new figures from the Office for National Statistics show
Ministers have ordered an audit of NHS jobs as part of a probe into departmental spending on civil service jobs which could lead to a thinning out of highly paid posts in the health service
Care home workers have launched legal action against the Government over its mandatory vaccination policy, The Telegraph can reveal