UK 'falling behind' in Covid battle with teen jab delay risking large ‘winter wave’

THE UK is "falling behind" in the Covid battle after experts delayed the decision on jabbing teens.

This has increased the risk of the country seeing a large "winter wave", Professor Neil Ferguson warned this morning.

Speaking before it was confirmed 12-15 year olds would get one Covid shot – which has been on the horizon for weeks – Professor Lockdown said it is a “priority” to boost immunity before winter.

Prof Ferguson, a member of SAGE and Imperial College London virus expert, said the UK is now lagging behind European neighbours after dithering over teenagers’ jabs.

After he last year persuaded Boris Johnson to call the first ever lockdown, the Prof now says he never wants another one.

But he warned the NHS must get on with rolling out boosters and teen jabs if ministers want to head off another virus wave at the end of the year.

Professor Ferguson said: “I think if we want to stop the risk of a large autumn and winter wave we need to boost immunity in the population.”

He said jabbing 12 to 15-year-olds is the “initial priority” and added: “We’re falling behind a little. 

“We were leading in Europe until recently and now several countries have got higher vaccination levels than us and that’s largely because they have rolled out vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds faster than us.”

He said said experts were seeing "slow increases in case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths" and he was supportive of booster shots.

The scientist told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that in the absence of social distancing measures, which he did agree with, "we are reliant on immunity building up in the population".

He added: "That happens two ways – one through vaccination, and one through people getting infected and so the faster we can roll our additional vaccination, the better in terms of stopping people getting severely ill but also in reducing transmission."

He said the UK had been leading in Europe on vaccination until recently but other countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Ireland "have got higher vaccination levels than us and that's largely because they have rolled out vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds faster than us.

"They also vaccinated more recently, and we know now that vaccine effectiveness decays over time, we always expected that, and so they have more immunity in the population.

"They also principally used the Pfizer vaccine which against Delta is somewhat more effective than the AstraZeneca vaccine, so there are a set of countries in Europe with considerably more population immunity than us and I think if we want to stop the risk of the large autumn and winter wave we need to boost immunity in the population."

 

This afternoon it was confirmed kids over-12 will start being jabbed within days after health chiefs urged ministers to give them a single shot of Pfizer.

The Government said it will decide whether or not to accept the recommendations "shortly".

The medical experts' decision on "public health grounds" considers the impact on children's education as well as the risks to their mental health from missing school.

Currently only over-16s are being jabbed but there has been widespread pressure to extend the rollout to curb infection as pupils go back to school.

Vulnerable over-12s are already been jabbed but boffins at the JCVI – the vaccines body – refused to recommend all teens get their shots.

They said Covid is only a tiny risk to over-12s and vaccination would only offer a marginal benefit.

It comes as Boris Johnson will tomorrow hail vaccines as the front line in the UK's defence against an NHS-crippling winter surge.

He will use another press conference with Prof Whitty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance to lay out a booster blitz for the over-50s.

The PM will tomorrow lay out his winter Covid plan to avoid another NHS-crippling spike throughout the colder months.

On a visit to Leicestershire he said: "The way things are going at the moment we're very confident in the steps that we've taken.

"I'll be setting out a lot more tomorrow. I'll be giving a full update on the plans."

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