With schools reopening across England this week, government scientists have described a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases as “highly likely”.
One reason given by the scientists is the extremely low rates of vaccination among school-age children. In England, no more than 13.3 per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds had received at least one vaccine dose by 22 August, according to a New Statesman analysis of government data.
England is far behind other countries on vaccinating teenagersShare of 12- to 17*-year-olds that have received at least one dose
Although England’s vaccination of under-18s has increased in recent weeks, the damage is done. It will be at least eight weeks before those currently receiving their first dose are able to receive their second, and a further two before they are fully protected.
That means at least 87 per cent of English 12- to 17-year-olds will not be fully protected until after half-term. If vaccinations continue at their current rate, no more than 48 per cent will be fully protected by Christmas.
The risk of death from Covid-19 is exceedingly low for young people, but the virus can cause severe illness. More than 40 under-18s are currently being hospitalised each day due to Covid-19, a number expected to increase as the virus makes its way through schools.
High rates of infection among young people also risks providing an incubator for future mutations, and a base from which it may spread to more vulnerable groups.
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) only approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in 16- to 17-year-olds on 4 August, with the government beginning the roll-out three weeks later. Children aged between 12 and 15 are expected to be offered the jab in September.