UK COVID-19 Update: Ethnic Minority Kids' Risks, Autumn Booster Jab Planning, Period Problems?

Tim Locke

June 21, 2021

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

Disproportionate Impact on Ethnic Minority Children

University of Oxford-led observational research based on 2.6 million records show a disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on children from ethnic minorities in England.

Writing in JAMA Paediatrics , researchers found:

  • Compared with White children, the odds of a positive test were 1.8 times more likely in children from Asian backgrounds, 1.12 times more likely in children from Black backgrounds, and 1.14 times more for those with mixed/other ethnicity backgrounds 

  • Asian children were 1.62 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with confirmed COVID-19 compared with White children

  • Black, mixed race, and children from other ethnicities were more likely to remain in hospital for 36 hours or longer compared with White children

Co-author, Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox, from Oxford, said: "While children are at a substantially lower risk from COVID-19 compared with adults, this study suggests that race and ethnicity play an important role in outcomes for COVID-19 across all age groups. Our findings reinforce the need for ethnicity-tailored approaches to diagnosing and managing COVID-19 in community settings, so those families at most risk of severe illness are better informed and have greater access to tests."

A&Es 'Swamped'

The Independent reported how UK hospital emergency departments "are at breaking point with record numbers of patients swamping A&Es".

It quotes Royal College of Emergency Medicine Vice President, Dr Adrian Boyle: "What's been going on for the last 6 weeks, the levels of activity we are seeing, is creating a significant and sustained threat to patient safety."

Autumn Booster Jab Planning

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) responded to criticism over planning for autumn COVID booster jabs alongside the seasonal flu vaccination programme. DHSC said decision making would need results from ongoing clinical trials, including Cov-Boost. England's Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised an announcement in a "few weeks".

Royal College of GPs' Chair Professor Martin Marshall, and NHS Providers' Chief Executive Chris Hopson, had told the BBC that questions about rolling out the jabs together needed to be answered now by the Government and JCVI vaccine advisers.

A preprint study published last week found that giving a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as a seasonal flu vaccine appears safe and effective.

JCVI Deputy Chair, Professor Anthony Harnden, told the BBC today: "Flu could be potentially a bigger problem this winter than COVID."

He said there have been very low flu numbers under lockdown, "and we do know that when flu has been circulating in very low numbers immunity drops in the population, and it comes back to bite us. So flu can be really, really important this winter."

Vaccination Programme

Data from the weekend show six COVID jab appointments were booked every 6 seconds in England after appointments were opened up to all adults on Friday.

Latest Public Health England data show most Delta variant cases are in unvaccinated under-30s.

Snapchat, Reddit, TikTok, and YouTube have agreed to help encourage vaccine uptake by offering expert Q&As, profile stickers, and special filters.

Last year the Government got a commitment from social media firms not to profit from or promote false information about COVID-19 vaccines, quicker responses to flag content, and to promote scientifically accurate messages.

Jabs and Periods

The Sunday Times (paywall) reported on MHRA yellow card reporting from 4000 women relating problems with periods after COVID-19 vaccination.

Dr Sue Ward, vice president, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, commented: "We’re aware some women have been reporting a change to their period cycle or symptoms during the pandemic. The degree to which changing hormone levels will affect someone is often informed by her psychological wellbeing at that time. We know that life events can make PMS symptoms feel worse and something as all-consuming and life-changing as a global pandemic could result in women experiencing their periods differently.

"Anecdotally some women seem to be reporting heavier periods after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and we would support more data collection in this area to understand why this might be the case."

Vice President, Dr Pat O’Brien, added: "It’s important to remember these side effects are mild and should not deter women from having the vaccine when they are called. Many women will experience a temporary change in their periods from time to time during their lives. And right now, many women in their 20s and 30s are having the COVID vaccine. So it seems inevitable that in some women these two events will coincide by chance."

He continued: "We also want to stress that these perceived changes in menstrual cycle after having the COVID-19 vaccine should not be confused with an impact on fertility and the ability to have children. There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility."

Isolation Changes Considered

Matt Hancock confirmed people who are fully vaccinated may not need to self-isolate if they come into contact with an infected person.

"We are piloting that approach, that if you've had two jabs, instead of having to isolate if you're a contact, then you have a testing regime," he told the BBC.

Hancock Data Claims Denied

DHSC issued a rebuttal to claims in the Sunday Telegraph under the headline: "Matt Hancock kept Boris Johnson in dark over COVID vaccines success." The paper said England's Health Secretary "sat on positive data for 3 days prior to meeting that ruled unlocking must be delayed".

DHSC said that was "incorrect, and misrepresents internal processes for data sharing".

It added: "The effectiveness of the vaccines against the Delta variant was discussed in the meeting that agreed the delay. Importantly, the SPI-M modelling that was presented, which was based on real world data, was in line with PHE conclusions and therefore ministers had access to the equivalent data when they made their decision."

Scotland's Manchester Travel Ban

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, called Scotland's ban on travel from Manchester and Salford "disproportionate".

Scotland's Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, said: "Placing restrictions on travel between Scotland and Manchester and Salford has only been taken after extremely careful consideration and analysis of data to help prevent the spread of variants of concern."

Science and Technology 

Downing Street announced Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance as the head of a new science and technology initiative.

"The new Office for Science and Technology Strategy will put science and technology right at the heart of policy-making and strengthen the way we work across Government to reinforce the position of the UK as a science superpower," Sir Patrick said.

"I look forward to working with the National Science and Technology Council to help identify cutting-edge research and technologies that will deliver strategic advantage for the UK."

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.


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