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Students fuelling Covid spread in England amid slow vaccine roll-out

LONDON : The spread of Covid-19 among children in England is fuelling a recent rise in cases nationally and causing concern among some scientists that vaccines are being rolled out in schools too slowly, risking the welfare of children and adults alike.

Covid-19 cases in Britain as a whole are much higher than in other European countries and are rising. On Friday, one survey suggested prevalence was at its highest level since January, with 8 per cent of secondary school students infected.

Vaccination rates for the age group in England are lagging those in many European countries and even Scotland, which some scientists have attributed to mixed messaging around shots for children, a later start and inflexibility with roll-out.

"The worry at the moment is it is clear that the vaccination programme in 12- to 15-year-olds is not going very well," Professor Lawrence Young, virologist at University of Warwick, told Reuters, adding that the spread of other viruses could lead to a "perfect storm" in the winter for the National Health Service if cases spread to older, more vulnerable adults.

"With all of what that means not only again for schools, but also for overwhelming the NHS... then the worry is that autumn and winter are going to get very, very messy."

Last month, Britain's chief medical officers recommended that children aged 12 to 15 should be offered the vaccine to help reduce disruption to their education. But with students and teachers missing school time having caught Covid-19, some believe the roll-out started too late.

Data released late last week showed that 28.8 per cent of children aged 12 to 17 had received a Covid-19 shot.

In Scotland, where 46.5 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds have had a Covid-19 shot, walk-in vaccination facilities are available, meaning children are not reliant on schools to get access to shots. - REUTERS

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