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Black and Asian teenagers at risk over delayed COVID vaccinations

Credits: REUTERS

A public health director has warned that the delay in vaccination 12 to 15-year-olds is endangering the health of black and Asian youths.

Because ethnic minorities have a higher proportion of under-18s than the general population, policy actions affecting this age group have a disproportionate impact on them.

Professor Dominic Harrison, director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said a winter surge in Covid-19 could put these communities at even greater risk unless the jabs rollout for younger teenagers is given top priority. These communities are already statistically more likely to suffer from serious disease due to Covid-19.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 27.3 percent of Asians and 30.4 percent of blacks in England and Wales are under the age of 18 — despite the fact that under-18s account for only 21.3 percent of the entire population.

Vaccines for all 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK were approved this month. Despite the fact that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was deemed safe for teens aged 12 to 15 by the UK medicines regulator in June, and the Moderna vaccine was deemed safe last week, the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has yet to approve either vaccine for use in younger teenagers.

Scientists, public health officials, teachers, and parents are all frustrated by the delay, especially given recent numbers suggest coronavirus infections are on the rise again with just over a week till the start of the new school year in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Professor Harrison went on to warn that he was concerned that the UK's vaccination lead was being lost due to the delay in authorizing vaccines for children aged 12 to 15.

“We need to get on with vaccination of all children over 12 as quickly as possible – if we don't, the UK South Asian populations, which have an average of 27% of their population under 18, would be put at special risk as we enter any winter surge,” he warned.

“What may appear to some communities to be a conservative strategy will result in a ‘riskier' winter for others.”

Members of the JCVI have stated that they must be cautious because the benefits of vaccinating under-16s, who are unlikely to be seriously harmed by Covid-19, are less clear than those of older individuals.


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