Dr John Ashton feared more disruption and danger would continue unless the younger UK population is vaccinated against COVID-19. Dr Ashton says not only is there the health risk associated with catching the disease, but children have been forced to stay off from school causing their education prospects to be hurt. The academic also delivered the stark warning that the UK could see another variant emerge over the summer holiday if it was not careful and the Government would be kicking itself knowing it could have done something.
Appearing on GB News, Dr Ashton appeared ahead of the JCVI’s announcement on 16 and 17-year-olds being recommended to get the vaccine.
It is hoped the 1.4 million teens eligible could be jabbed before they return back to school at the end of summer, creating another protective barrier between pupils and parents.
Dr Ashton welcomed the decision but felt the vaccination programme should go further.
He said: “The vaccine can cause harm to children, yes, deaths have been very low but there are other things to take into account.
“I mean I’ve mentioned disruption to education, we’ve had very large numbers of children who’ve had to be socially isolated during the last weeks of the summer term because of the enormous levels of the spread of the virus in the school-age population.
“And that’s very disruptive of their education, the other aspect that’s important, apart from long Covid and people tend to overlook long Covid as an issue for teenagers as well as for older people.
“But is the potential for further mutations of the virus and that’s what I’m worried about now in the school holidays as well with the virus running at very high levels among the 15 to 30 age group.
“There’s a good chance that we may get yet another Kent variation or other geographic variation, maybe a Cornwall variation since Cornwall is full of tourists.
“You know, and we really missed an opportunity to get vaccinating the teenagers before they finish the school term, hopefully, will now get cracking.
“And make sure that all the sixth formers at least have had their first jab before schools resume in September.”
Currently, the JCVI only recommends vaccinations for over-12s if they have a serious underlying health condition and recommend alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine for those under 40.
There were concerns earlier in the year that the AZ jab could cause blood clotting in younger people which made several European countries pause their rollout.
Currently, the Delta variant is the most prominent in the UK much like Germany, with France seeing the Beta variant swarm across the country.
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There have also been calls for more developed countries to help out other nations with their vaccination efforts for fear new variants could emerge there too.
Variants can emerge when the virus spike protein changes making it difficult for the body’s immune system to identify and kill.
This also means some variants are sometimes able to escape immunity as vaccines could be based on a similar but not identical virus structure.
However, most pharmaceutical companies account for this and constantly change and edit their vaccines to make sure they are the most effective they can be.