Half of children have already had Covid, England’s chief medical officer says, with highest transmission rate among school pupils

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Roughly half of all schoolchildren have already had Covid-19, England’s chief medical officer has said, adding that the highest rate of transmission of the virus is currently being seen in this age group.

Speaking on Wednesday, England’s CMO Chris Whitty remarked that “there is definitely substantial transmission happening in this age group … as far as we can tell.” He went on to warn that “virtually any child, unvaccinated, is likely to get an infection at some point between 12 and 15” due to the prevalence of Covid amongst schoolchildren.

The professor acknowledged, however, that vaccination will not completely eradicate the spread of Covid, but he stressed it “will significantly reduce … the amount of disruption” to education.

Although the inoculation drive could cause some disruptions to classes, it would be less than if a pupil caught the virus, he said.

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Last week, the UK’s chief medical officers announced that children across the country aged between 12 and 15 can receive Covid-19 vaccinations, with adolescents eligible to receive a single dose of Pfizer’s mRNA shot.

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) declined to advise on expanding the vaccine to healthy children within this age cohort earlier this month. The body stated that although “the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms … the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12- to 15-year-olds at this time.”

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Prof. Sarah Gilbert, the designer of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, has even cast doubt on offering minors Covid jabs. In an interview with La Repubblica, she said that “if you can’t prevent transmission by vaccination and the children are not at risk of severe disease and hospitalisation and death, which the vast majority of children are not, you have to ask yourself: ‘What would be the benefits of vaccinating children?’”

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