A public health information message displayed in London (Image: Reuters)
A new research by the Imperial College London has found that while the coronavirus outbreak in England is “stable”, patterns across age groups show that infections among school-aged children is rising.
Among participants tested for the College’s Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission or REACT-1 study, those aged 17 and younger had an average reproduction number (R) of 1.18 against the country-wide average of 1.03 and R of 0.81 in age group 18-54.
R denotes the rate at which one person passes on the virus to another. Overall the study stated that the COVID-19 epidemic in England is “neither growing nor shrinking”.
REACT-1 is an ongoing coronavirus monitoring programme based on home swabs of 100,000 randomly selected people each month for two weeks. This study was from September 9 to 27, and showed that 1 in 120 people or 83 percent of the population had the virus during the period.
In fact, the highest number of infections were found in ages 5-12 years old – 1 in 43 or 2.32 percent and ages 13-17 – 1 in 39 or 2.55 percent.
According to Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme from Imperial’s School of Public Health, latest data also indicates that households with children had a higher prevalence of infection, suggesting that kids may be bringing the virus into their homes.
“These trends reinforce how important it is for children aged 12 and above to get vaccinated and help curb the spread of infection, and minimise disruption to education,” he added.
The REACT-1 programme is carried out by Imperial in partnership with Ipsos MORI and is commissioned by the UK Health Security Agency. Data from the study “inform government decision making”, the College’s post added.
Region-wise, the lowest infection rate was found in South East England (0.57 percent) and the highest in Yorkshire and the Humber (1.25 percent). Further, patterns suggest infections are growing in London (R of 1.59) and East Midlands (R of 1.36) – above the overall average.
Demographics-wise, the higher burden is on black ethnicity (1.41 percent) compared to white people (0.78 percent); and households with six or more occupants were more likely to be infected (1.75 percent), compared to single-person homes (0.33 percent).
Around 1.73 percent of unvaccinated people showed infections, twice those who got both doses of the vaccine (0.56 percent). Researchers calculated the overall effectiveness of vaccines was 62.8 percent.
By vaccine-type, effectiveness for AstraZeneca was 44.8 percent and Pfizer-BioNTech was 71.3 percent.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said the data shows that vaccination “makes a huge difference” but emphasised that the pandemic is “not over”.
“As we move towards winter, it is as important as ever that we continue to act responsibly in order to avoid transmission. While cases remain high, the vaccination programme is ensuring that this does not translate to a similarly high number of hospitalisations and deaths. We are urging everyone who is eligible to come forward for vaccination. It is the best way to reduce transmission and protect ourselves and those we love,” she added.