Experts and health professionals on Number 10 sidelining behaviour experts at SAGE, thousands of COVID deaths reported every week, teenagers finally getting vaccinated in England, COVID cases among schoolchildren hitting record peak in England, and England’s new, controversial Covid travel rules.

First published in September 2021.

What the experts say...

... on Number 10 being unwilling to listen to behaviour experts “uncomfortable truths” on COVID-19, vaccine passports, and face masks, and even sidelining them at SAGE.

Professor Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology, School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, Member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) subcommittee on behavioural science:

“I very much welcome the expansion of in-house behavioural science advice but … you want people who can speak uncomfortable truths and it’s very difficult to do that when your job depends on it.

“As we segue away from restrictions and say ‘it’s up to you’, the behavioural issues become absolutely critical. We’ve got the vaccines now. But vaccines are no good if people don’t get vaccinated.”

— Source: The Guardian.

Professor Susan Michie, Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change, University College London, and SAGE SPI-B Member:

“Sage and many others are predicting rising rates of Covid and other respiratory viruses and serious NHS pressures, and there is considerable uncertainty [about] the scale of the problems we are going to see over the winter. Sage has pointed out that what happens will depend to a considerable extent on people’s behaviour.

Now is not the time to lose independent behavioural scientific advice to government, whether or not they choose to use it.”

— Source: The Guardian.

What the experts say...

... on more or less 1,000 COVID deaths reported every week in the UK.

Dr Gabriel Scally, Public Health Physician, Visiting Professor of Public Health, University of Bristol, Member of Independent Sage:

“Unacceptable! 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in the UK in the last week. This is a disgrace. The government is failing the people.

“There are a few countries in Europe doing worse on COVID-19 death rates – but not many.”

— Source: Twitter.

Number 10

What the experts say...

... on children aged 12-15 finally getting vaccinated in England.

Professor Debby Bogaert, Scottish Senior Clinical Fellow and Honorary Consultant in paediatric infectious diseases, University of Edinburgh:

“I strongly recommend the COVID vaccine for all children over 12 because it is a safe and effective vaccine that will protect them against catching and spreading the virus.

“Only a small fraction of infected children might require hospitalisation [from COVID-19]. However, a small fraction of many children is still a lot. Every severe infection in a child we can prevent does count.

“Moreover, children also have a small risk of getting a more severe multi-organ inflammatory syndrome called PIMS-TS, following COVID-19. Children can also develop prolonged symptoms for months or longer, called ‘Long COVID’, which may impact their lives significantly.

“Finally, young people are not naive regarding COVID-19. Giving them the choice to get vaccinated, now we have a safe effective vaccine, will help them regain some control of their lives and fears, including the fear to catch the virus or pass it on to their beloved ones.

“If many children decide to be vaccinated, it likely will also help to contain the virus further, reduce infections in schools, and help to reduce interruptions of their education. Altogether, many ways by which it may support their physical and mental health positively.”

— Source: Twitter.

What the experts say...

... on COVID cases among schoolchildren hitting record peak in England.

Dr Nisreen Alwan, Associate Professor in Public Health for Medicine, University of Southampton:

“For those saying it’s inevitable. I say not in the context of many other countries. They say it’s just a matter of time for their kids to get it. I say time is used to protect not infect. Good public health never uses the argument: let’s get it over with!

“No matter how much they say: it’s just a cold, I think it’s outrageous to let COVID spread among kids like what’s happening in England. Household contacts not isolating. No masks. Ventilation dependent on the luck of the building. No vaccines yet (they could have used the summer for teenagers).

“Millions across the world have not recovered from it. Over the last 18 months, it clearly showed us it’s not a benign virus. There is so much evidence now that it causes health damage if it doesn’t kill. Yet the only outcomes policy cares about are hospital admissions and deaths within 28 days!

“We can’t be blasé about all the kids getting it! And please don’t start with: “We can’t close schools again.” This black and white narrative is ridiculous. There is so much in the middle between doing nothing and closing schools. So much.

“We’re so lucky that kids are not as badly affected as adults, but that’s not an excuse to make infection inevitable for them. It’s not an excuse to have so much less research investigating any effects of the infection on their health and so much less surveillance following them up.

If the policy is set to act as if it’s fine they all get infected, at least produce some evidence to back it up. At least wait for some time while that evidence is generated. We can’t go fingers-crossed and jump on this. It’s way too big of a deal.”

— Source: Twitter & Twitter.

Dr Kit Yates, Author and Mathematical Biologist, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath:

“100,000 kids off school with confirmed or suspected COVID.
What happened to children’s education being a top priority?
This is an abject failure of policy.
Our children deserve better.”

— Source: Twitter.

What the experts say...

... on vaccinating as many people as possible to defeat COVID-19.

Professor Sharon Peacock, Executive Director of the Covid-19 UK Genomics Consortium:

“If we don’t vaccinate people and there is uncontrolled transmission and infection, then that is the right training ground for the virus.

“So vaccination of the world is not only the morally right thing to do but the strategically right thing to do if we are going to protect the world.”

— Source: The Telegraph.

Dr Tom Frieden, Physician trained in Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Public Health, and Epidemiology, Former Commissioner of Health of the City of New York:

“Herd immunity to Covid may be an impossible dream. But vaccination is still our most powerful tool against the virus, and we must increase vaccinations globally to prevent deaths, preserve health care, and reduce spread.”

— Source: Twitter.

What the experts say...

... on England’s new, controversial Covid travel rules, described by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as “a new simplified system for international travel”, but which critics call “an illogical and discriminatory policy”.

Dr Ifeanyi Nsofor, CEO of EpiAFRIC, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch, Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at George Washington University:

“The UK is one of the largest funders of the Covax facility and now the UK is saying that the same vaccines they have sent, will now not be considered. It’s sad, it’s wrong, it’s discriminatory.

“To me this is just another layer of Covid-19 vaccine inequity. We’ve been dealing with the fact that richer nations are hoarding vaccines, even when poorer countries can afford them they can’t access enough.”

— Source: The Guardian.

Professor Helen Rees, Global Health Practitioner, Chair of the WHO’s African Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (RITAG):

Does the world do this for any other vaccines? Does the UK say we’re not going to recognise your polio vaccines from Pakistan? No. We accept that your vaccines are safely administered. If we’re worried that there are variants that are resistant to the vaccines, that’s happening all over the world. But the Delta variant is in 100 countries of the world and the vaccines do work against Delta.

“I’m not worried that this is cast in stone but I think it’s something that really must be discussed. Not least because if the world starts closing borders to what looks like poorer countries, what does that mean for inequality? For refugees? We can’t close our borders, we must trust the vaccines and we must trust the governments that are administering the vaccines.”

— Source: The Guardian.

PMP Xtra

“Under the new rules, travellers fully vaccinated with Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen shots in the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea or an EU country will be considered “fully vaccinated” and exempt from quarantine when they arrive in England from an amber list country.
But people who have been fully vaccinated with the same vaccines in Africa or Latin America, as well as other countries including India, will be considered “not fully vaccinated” and forced to quarantine for 10 days on arrival from an amber list country.”

(Source ▪ The Guardian)


PMP News reporting.


[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 23 September 2021.]

(Cover: Flickr/Number 10 - Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. | 23 September 2021. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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