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UK to replace vax only with infection only strategy
Younger children will never be offered a vaccine
The UK was one of the first countries to claim the pandemic was over, announcing “Freedom Day” on 19 July 2021 and then Living with Covid Day in 2022 which Sajid Javid the Health Secretary at the time declared the UK was “moving into endemicity” now that we had vaccines and other treatments as he declared the end of all measures.
Unfortunately covid didn’t get the memo it needed to change its behaviour battering heathcare services with a succession of variants in the Omicron family as divergent from the Omicron as Omicron was from earlier variants. The end result is that various treatments have lost their effectiveness, in the US the FDA has withdrawn the use of Evushield.
This is less relevant in the UK where many CEV people haven’t been able to access the Evushield despite the government stating access to such treatments was what allowed them to have Freedom Day.
Now the UK is set to remove the only other plank of its living with covid strategy, access to vaccines is to be withdrawn for the vast majority of the population. Future boosters will only be offered to those who fit a narrow definition of being at risk and current offers for the majority are to be withdrawn.
Note that the government states even for more vulnerable groups boosters “could” be offered, not that they will be offered. The lumping together of all the diverse sub-lineages of Omicron doesn't sound helpful in regards to surge vaccinations if a worrying new variant emerges from one of the sub-lineages.
Its seemed very unlikely under 5s would get the choice of vaccination ever since the JCVI announced any child turning 5 after August 2022 wouldn’t be eligible for the offer to 5-11 year olds. The stayed reason was to protect coverage of vaccines for other infectious diseases.
This latest announcement means those children turning 5 this school year and younger will currently never be offered a covid vaccine. The government and its advisors have made the decision that it will do nothing to prevent repeat infection in children, essentially the UK is taking the same approach to covid that its taken for chicken pox.
UK readers will be interested to know that most countries vaccinate children against chickenpox. In the UK we're told as children that catching chickenpox as a child will prevent us from catching shingles.
The CDC says,
The NHS even says,
If you haven't caught chickenpox you can’t get shingles, yet unlike many countries, the UK chooses not to prevent chickenpox with vaccination.
UK’s Clinical Lead for Children
Shamez Ladhani, UKHSA's clinical lead for covid in children has celebrated the decision to deprive parents of the choice to vaccinate their children. An influential voice against vaccinating “healthy children”, Ladhani produces much of the evidence the JCVI relies on to make its decisions in regards to children and is called on to present evidence at their meetings.
When questioned Ladhani provides an insight into the thinking guiding policy.
Other developed countries have been able to maintain other standard vaccinations alongside covid for the ages of 6 months and older, yet apparently the UK does not have this capacity.
Children will not be offered vaccination because nearly all of them have been infected, a reminder that Ladhani and his colleagues spent 2020 arguing there was no need for mitigations in schools because children were considerably less likely to be infected and were less infectious when infected. Now the argument is being made that mitigations are not required because so many children have been infected.
Its worth noting the ONS Infection Survey statistics estimates every students has on average been infected twice with covid. One of Ladhani’s own studies suggested around 25% of students do not seroconvert to produce antibodies post infection, while previously Ladhani and colleagues also suggested 25-50% of children have natural immunity due to T-Cell cross immunity for other coronaviruses.
It seems like “immunity” is being mis-sold here if children keep getting reinfected.
It’s also interesting that Ladhani finds himself in agreement with the anti-vax account imaginnnnne when as someone at UKHSA it surely be his role to find ways of reducing vax hesitancy.
Ladhani is correct that this is a massive statement of intent, the UK is replacing a vax only strategy with a infection only strategy, however the claim this is the view of the UK scientific community as a whole seems questionable considering the number of professionals in relevant fields have voiced their concern with this approach.
Effectively the defence for choosing repeat infection without the offer of vaccination is that not that many children will die as a consequence. Rates may be lower than in other age groups, however those numbers aren’t insignificant, and those numbers represent real lives.
Ladhani has also produced another paper on child deaths using the same methodology as previous papers where his review system which determines that his team’s experiance knows better than what is written on a death certificate.
Transitioning to just another childhood illness
JCVI minutes from meetings back in 2021 regarding the initial decision to pass the decision to vaccinate 12-15 year olds to the Chief Medical Officers gave the impression that the UK considered covid vaccines to be a short term measure to get over the hump of the pandemic and persuade the public to return to the pre-pandemic normal rather becoming a new addition to the list of routinely recommended vaccinations like polio, TB and measles.
On 13 May 2021 JCVI discussed “allowing the virus to circulate amongst children which could provide broader immunity to the children and boost immunity in adults.”
20 May they disxused the “theoretical advantages of exposure to natural infection.” “It was noted that there was a very small number of children who died following infection”, and PIMS-TS which has killed around 50 children in the UK and hospitalised many more was “less serious than initially thought”
They then discussed the absence of vaccination for future generations claiming “early infection would then provide protection against severe disease throughout life.”
How could the JCVI state that early infection will protect throughout life only18 months after SARS2 appeared and began to show the ability to spawn a soup of variants?
Yet this appears to be the gamble behind the decision to deny younger children the choice of vaccination.
The JCVI considers covid in children to just be another respiratory viral infection like others that circulate each year.
“Covid-19 in children is different”
By July 2021 when the JCVI had decided not to offer vaccination to 12-15 they suggested a possible school leaver programme for those who manage to avoid infection for their whole time in school.
What about long covid? Over three months of meetings in 2021 the JCVI had one discussion on long covid. A number of studies are mentioned, those with a high rate of long covid are dismissed because symptoms are “difficult to attribute to the biological effect of infection.”
Ladhani and others he works with have suggested much of long covid could be psychological and do not recognise the potential biological markers for which there is a growing evidence base.
A lack of control groups in studies is cited as the reason for their difficulties in defining long covid, now that covid has been allowed to run rampant through schools there is no control group left.
JCVI decided immunity from natural infection would provide better protection than vaccines.
Some members of UKHSA have recently been sharing a thread describing accusations the UK government was deliberately allowing children to be infected as the product “Zero covid conspiracy theorists”, however the JCVI minutes show deliberate infection is considered a valid strategy.
The DfE has resisted calls to provide improved ventilation and air filtration in schools and without vaccination the JCVI were clear the likely result of this would be the infection of all children.
The view of the UK government and a number of those advising and working in UKHSA has always been that reducing transmission in schools prolongs the pandemic, this is why there has been such fierce opposition to suggestions of any mitigations.
Even measures that couldn’t be considered a restriction have been opposed and this is based on the principle that reducing transmission in children is undesirable because they want to use children to build up herd immunity.
With the proliferation of variants this strategy has been adapted to believing children should face the brunt of every way to reach temporary herd immunity.
When the lack of investment is questioned those at UKHSA then demand others produce cost benefit analysis.
But isn’t the real question why hasn’t the public health authority bothered to do a cost benefit analysis, isn’t that their job?
They haven’t even tried to do the calculations because it doesn’t fit the aim to turn covid into a harmless childhood illness. It's a strategy that as with the UKs initial herd immunity policy that it adapted rather than ditched, and the Great Barrington Declaration, many of the assumptions the strategy is based on are in conflict with the growing evidence base.
The UK is an outlier, but as with Freedom Day, once they change vax policy they will create the political space for other countries to follow.
The problem is that as with Freedom Day and Living with Covid Day, SARS2 didn’t get the message.
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