Scientific advice to the government has mostly been good during the pandemic, but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is showing unhelpful signs of procrastination over the vaccination of teenagers and the use of adult boosters (Verslag, 27 Augustus). It is also playing out its discussion via the media rather than in a timely fashion in private. Its doubts about vaccinating teenagers are said to centre on concerns about side-effects, the ethics of indirect benefit and of using vaccines here rather than overseas. The mRNA vaccines that would be used in this group have an excellent safety profile, and are the least suitable for use in developing countries because of storage temperature requirements. Boys are already vaccinated against rubella for the benefit of others (ie pregnant women). The debate is reminiscent of the early hesitation about mask wearing, where some scientists swerved away from their use on the plausible but unlikely grounds of other unintended effects on behaviour. These were not realised, and most of us now regret the delay in mask wearing. I would urge the JCVI to realise that time is not on its side if an autumn campaign is to be organised.
Emeritus professor of public health, University of East Anglia
Re Devi Sridhar’s article (For most of the world, the pandemic is not over, 29 Augustus), while recognising that the Delta variant of Covid is causing major problems throughout the world, the perception that it “feels for most people [hier], the pandemic is over”, as it has fallen from the front pages, is to ignore the reality of the current situation.
The persistent UK death toll is in excess of a crammed London Routemaster bus driving over a cliff day after day after day. One could be forgiven for imagining that the regular and avoidable loss of so many vehicles would be headline news, not to mention the deaths of all on board.