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Ministers criticised for ‘haphazard’ Covid jab rollout for teenagers in England

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Ministers criticised for ‘haphazard’ Covid jab rollout for teenagers in England

Ministers have been accused of losing a grip on the Covid vaccination programme for teenagers with headteachers and parents describing a “haphazard” and “incredibly slow” rollout that is causing disruption in schools in England.

They raised the alarm as Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, admitted he had no idea how many 12- to 15-year-olds had had their jabs, with early figures suggesting the government has little hope of hitting its target of vaccinating them all by half-term

New data has shown that fewer than one in 10 (9%) in the age group had been vaccinated by last Sunday, but this includes those who are either clinically vulnerable or living with people who are vulnerable and who were prioritised for vaccination earlier in the summer.

The government set half-term as a target for what ministers hoped would be a speedy rollout in schools, but with just over two weeks to go until the autumn break, anxious parents have told the Guardian they are seeing Covid infections rise in their children’s school but have still not been given a vaccination date.

Others said vaccinations were not being done until after half-term in November, while there are also reports of sessions being cancelled at the last minute and “poorly prepared” vaccination teams overwhelmed by demand having to leave sites after vaccinating just a fraction of pupils with consent.

According to the latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data, published on Thursday, almost 260,000 12- to 15-year-olds – out of a total of just under 3 million – had received the jab by 3 October. Of those, 94,000 have been vaccinated since the rollout began in schools on 20 September.

NHS England, however, claimed its up-to-date figures suggested more vaccinations had taken place. “In just two weeks hundreds of schools have already held vaccination clinics, with more than 160,000 children and teenagers getting protected,” a spokesperson said. “As the rollout continues over the next few weeks, local providers will continue to contact schools and work with parents to agree consent so that they can organise a visit.”

Asked on Times Radio about the rates of vaccination in schools in England, Zahawi, who was previously the vaccines minister, said on Thursday he had not yet seen the vaccination data but was due to have a meeting with his former team.

He said: “It’s worth just reminding your listeners, there’s a lag because obviously you’ve got to get consent letters out, they’ve got to come back and then the school, with the school-age immunisation clinicians, decide as to when they’ve got enough students [and] parents have consented, that they can actually vaccinate.”

Labour criticised the government over the situation. Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “Over 200,000 children were out of school due to Covid last week and the Conservatives are asleep at the wheel. Nadhim Zahawi cannot even say how many kids have had the jab.”

Dr Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, said she was very concerned by the UKHSA figures. “Not only did the government miss the opportunity to vaccinate adolescents over the summer, even when the offer was made, it seems that most adolescents haven’t been able to access vaccination.”

Prof Christina Pagel, director of UCL’s Clinical Operational Research Unit blamed poor organisation. “In the week to 3 October, we vaccinated 70,000 children (2.4%) in England. In the three days from 1-3 October, we gave 470,000 booster doses. This is an organisational issue, not a supply issue. Scotland has already vaccinated 30% of its 12- to 15-year olds compared to our 9%.

“Cases in teenagers are extremely high. We have had months to plan a vaccine rollout to children and it is very disappointing to see it move so slowly.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said his members were becoming increasingly concerned about the rollout. “We have picked up reports of issues where the School Age Immunisation Service (Sais) has underestimated the challenge of vaccinating so many students at once, and has therefore had to provide vaccinations to certain year groups and arrange to return at a later date.

“We have also heard of vaccinations being cancelled because demand for the vaccine has outstripped supply, and of issues arising where either a website has crashed on which parents give consent, or the school has been asked to manage the administrative process without sufficient time to make these arrangements.”

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh and a member of Spi-M (the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling), speaking in a personal capacity, said it was likely a substantial fraction of under-16s had already been infected with coronavirus.

“I think it’s fair to say that natural infection of under-16s is outpacing vaccination,” he said. “The good news is that the wave of infections in school-age children in Scotland is well past its peak now [according to the] ONS positivity survey data and, as you’d expect, Covid-related absences are falling too. Since Scotland’s schools went back [a few weeks] before England it’s possible that England will follow suit in the next week or two.”

Health

Group hails IG as mother accused Hospital of stealing Placenta

The Inspector General of Police, (IG) Kayode Egbetokun has received praises for the prompt arrest of suspects accused of stealing the placenta of a new born baby in privated hospital located in Kwara State. The suspects were taken from Ilofa to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Thursday.
In a statement signed by NHRC’s official, Mr Taiwo Adeleye said the arrest of the suspects was an important step towards securing justice for the families of Mr Rotimi Williams whose wife accused health officials at a private hospital of stealing the placenta of her new born baby.
The Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC),a coalition of 130 civil society groups spread across Nigeria on Thursday expressed delight at the arrest of the suspects by the police.
The group said it was aware of plots by some powerful individuals to clog the wheel of justice but was delighted that the IG has brought hope to the despairing family. It called for full investigation that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of all culprits.
Few days ago, Mrs Williams accused the management of Cottage hospital, Ilofa, Kwara State of failing to account for the placenta of her new born baby. In complaints lodged with the NHRC, Mrs Williams said a nurse, Mrs Alabi took the delivery, one nurse Adeloye cleaned up the baby while one Mrs Toyin, a ward attendant claimed she mistakenly threw away the placenta.
“In Nigerian agelong tradition, the placenta is linked to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of a new born baby. There is a customary and agelong way of burying placenta of which every medical staff is aware.The disappearance of a baby’s placenta is a source of eternal trauma for the parents and a prelude to impugn the future of the child based on timeless tradition and beliefs,” the NHRC said.
The Coalition said the placenta could be stolen for rituals, adding that stealing a placenta is like killing the child or using the child for ritual by other means The group said it would follow-up the case “day and night” to ensure justice is done. The NHRC said Mrs Toyin brought out the mother’s bags from the labour room but failed to take the placenta along.
The rights group said one Mrs Ayoni Awolusi in the course of the delivery, claimed she was to be on duty but was absent. The medical personnel expected to be on dury was Dr. Ajibola. NHRC said Mrs Williams put to bed around 7pm on Sunday May 12 but discovered the missing placenta very early on Monday 13th, May.
The group called on the IG to intensify the probe and ensure every one connected with the gory episode is brought to justice

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AstraZeneca withdraws COVID-19 vaccines from market as demand reduces

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca on Wednesday said it was withdrawing Covid vaccine Vaxzevria, one of the first produced in the deadly pandemic, citing “commercial reasons” following a slump in demand.

“As multiple, variant Covid-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzevria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson added in a statement.

“We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

AstraZeneca rapidly developed the successful Covid-19 jab during the coronavirus pandemic which erupted in the first half of 2020.

Vaxzevria, developed alongside Oxford University, was at first offered at cost but Astra decided in late 2021 to sell it for profit.

But the world pivoted towards mRNA vaccines, particularly the one produced by US drugs giant Pfizer and German peer BioNTech, after rare blood-clot problems with Astra’s jab increased public hesitancy about taking it.

Sales collapsed further as global Covid restrictions were fully lifted worldwide and the world emerged from the global health crisis.

The AstraZeneca spokesperson said the group had begun the process from taking it off the market in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA) region.

The company will work with other regulators globally to start market authorisation withdrawals for the Vaxzevria “where no future commercial demand for the vaccine is expected”.

The spokesperson said that, according to independent estimates, “over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone” and more than three billion doses were supplied globally.

“We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic. ”

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Health

NMA lauds Police for arresting fake doctor in Lagos

The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has commended the Nigerian Police Force for arresting an alleged fake medical doctor.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, Dr Benjamin Olowojebutu, Chairman, NMA Lagos, said the arrest will strengthen the association’s fight against quackery in the medical profession.

Olowojebutu explained that medical quackery was a dangerous practice that posed a threat to the well-being of citizens and the delivery of quality healthcare in the state, and country.

“The arrest is a welcome development for the health sector; we would expose these quacks and ensure that Lagos does not suffer further morbidity and mortality from their nefarious activities.

“We are glad that our work on anti-quackery has started yielding progress as we are determined to weed out quacks from the medical profession,” he said.

The chairman pledged that NMA Lagos, with the support of the Ministry of Health, Health Monitoring and Accreditation Agency, HEFAMAA, and police, would eradicate quacks from the state.

According to him, the association would hold an anti-quackery summit soon, after which it would present a white paper to the Lagos State Government on anti-quackery.

Olowojebutu warned hospitals to refrain from employing staff whose certificates and licences had not been verified by the MDCN to safeguard the health of the populace.

The 37-year-old medical practitioner with suspected forged certificates was arrested by police at Skylink Medical Centre, Elepe-Ikorodu.

The police said they arrested the suspect, who claimed to be the managing director of the health facility, based on intelligence gathered by the command through members of the Elepe community concerning the activities of the suspect.

The police recovered two suspected forged certificates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, after searching for the facility.

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