Covid UK: almost half of new cases are among children and teenagers amid concerns over schools vaccine rollout

As concerns mount over high infection levels in the UK relative to Europe, exclusive analysis shows children and teens account for the lion’s share of new coronavirus cases across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Almost half of new Covid cases in the UK are among children and teenagers, analysis by NationalWorld reveals.

It comes amid concerns about the high level of coronavirus cases in the UK compared to the rest of Western Europe, and as headteachers call for the vaccination programme for school-aged children to be expanded to walk-in centres.

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Age breakdowns of Covid cases are available for slightly different time periods for each UK nation – although Wales does not publish a breakdown at all.

In the week to 13 October, 239,718 cases were recorded in England, of which 110,615 (46.1%) were among people aged under 20.

In Scotland, 4,566 of the 15,435 cases (29.6%) in the week to 17 October were among under 20s,

Northern Ireland saw 8,932 cases in the week to 17 October, of which 3,951 were among children and teenagers (44.2%).

That gives a total of 119,132 cases among under 20s out of 264,085 (45.1%) across all three nations over the respective time periods.

Age groupings are not consistent across UK nations’ data, though a wide category of 0 to 19 can be used to tally up cases across all three.

But in England, which uses the most specific age groups, the figures show almost a quarter (24.4%) of cases were among 10 to 14 year olds.

In Scotland, a quarter (24.9%) were among 0 to 14 year olds versus 5,3% among 15 to 19 year olds, and in Northern Ireland, 21.5% were among 10 to 14 year olds.

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There is mounting concern at the slow pace of the vaccine rollout for children.

Headteachers’ unions have called for pupils to be allowed to use walk-in vaccine centres in England, as they are in Scotland, amid concerns that logistical problems such as staffing levels are preventing jabs being administered quickly enough in schools.

There are also concerns that the high levels of infection already among the age group is preventing a faster rollout.

People who have had Covid need to wait 28 days until they can get vaccinated, NHS guidance states.

Analysis by NationalWorld shows England and Wales have fallen far behind Scotland on vaccinating under 16s.

UK Government figures show 535,865 12 to 15 year olds in England had been vaccinated as of 16 October – 15.9% of the population, based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) population estimates.

That compares to uptake of 47.4% in Scotland for the same age group as of 17 October, according to Public Health Scotland figures.

Public Health Wales meanwhile says 22.9% of 12 to 15 year olds had been vaccinated as of 13 October.

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Vaccinations have not yet opened for children aged under 16 in Northern Ireland.

James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Allowing 12-15 year olds to attend walk-in vaccination centres would be a sensible decision.

“Those who want to get the vaccination should be able to do so as quickly as possible.

“Assuming that this is designed to complement the existing in-school arrangements then it seems the sensible thing to do.

“It remains crucial that the in-school programme is rolled out as quickly as possible. We know that the health teams working in schools are working tirelessly to achieve this, but they need full support from the Government.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said they are going to keep the vaccination programme for 12  to 15 year olds “under review”,  as he said it was “at a scale and pace which is unusual”.

This story was updated to change the proportion of 12-15 year olds vaccinated in England from 20% to 16.9%.

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