THE summer of fun children were promised doesn’t seem to be happening. After campaigning to release lockdown restrictions for many months, the moment is within touching distance, yet new worries about children abound. An astonishing 600,000-plus children were reported to be off school last week due to the Delta strain of Covid-19 because of testing positive or possible contact with anyone testing positive.
As my critics remind me, I am not a virologist nor any form of scientist, but I am listening and watching. I have been saying for months that we have to learn how to live with this virus, as we learnt to live with flu.
In the same way that I trust voters, so I trust parents trying to protect their children. Covid is racing around children and young people at turbojet speed. How serious is it, though, and is it any real cause for anxiety? How many of the new cases are the result of what we know to be unreliable positive tests? How worrying are the sniffles, mild coughs and colds which appear to be the main symptoms of the 11plus year olds affected? We know that reports of reinfection with the Delta variant are greatly exaggerated.
I believe some parents are arranging the Covid equivalent of chickenpox parties for their children over the summer. Why, you might ask, would people want their children to catch a nasty virus? There are three likely reasons. First, they assume that if children in their classes and school all get Covid over summer, they will have the natural antibodies, so there is far less chance of positive tests next term disrupting their lessons and school time. The second possible reason is that parents want their children to catch the virus and develop these natural antibodies before they are forced by the Government to vaccinate them, which millions of parents do not want to do. Third, parents may be hoping that their children develop natural resistance now in case the virus becomes more nasty and more dangerous for young people. Professor Robert Dingwall of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said recently with respect to teenagers that vaccines had to be ‘exceptionally safe’ not to do more harm than good. Children, in a word, would be better off catching the virus than risk being vaccinated.
Anecdotes are common of families where parents caught Covid last year, but the children did not, yet now the children are indeed catching it albeit with much milder symptoms. Does that mean that the virus has altered in order to target a new, receptive audience without antibodies or, looking at the New Zealand evidence, have children’s immune systems been weakened by the prolonged lockdown and inactivity?
What worries me most is that as more children (asymptomatically as well as symptomatically) catch the virus over the next few weeks, the feeble Department for Education won’tgo ahead with its plans to do away with the bubbles, self-isolation, masks and social distancing that have been causing such disruption to schools. Instead they may test children more frequently than ever, and Government advisers will be more tempted to use the autumn term as pressure to get parents to vaccinate their children with what is still an emergency vaccine.
Government data shows the jab to be producing levels of adverse reactions and deaths around the world that need proper scrutiny, understanding and transparency. That’s why we must be able to make a proper honest informed assessment of the risk reward ratio of young people and children having the vaccine. The reaction amongst parents is likely to be far more rebellious, noisy and shocking than many in Westminster imagine. What happens when, heaven forbid, a child is severely disabled or dies of the jab in the UK? Given the millions of children involved, this is not an if, but when. It has already happened in the US where they are vaccinating children.
For parents facing this Hobson’s choice it is hard but life is a risk. Many will prefer for little James and Jemima to catch a summer Covid sniffle and develop natural antibodies, than face an emergency vaccine of manufactured antibodies which has not been approved for children here in the UK.
This is why we have to have the courage to learn to live with the virus, and understand that the more testing that is done, the higher the case numbers will be regardless of real illness due to the high number of false positives. We need the confidence to stop mass testing of healthy children which is just spreading fear. Real leadership is about showing that courage, generating that understanding, instilling that confidence.