Covid infections rose exponentially among five- to 17-year-olds in September, coinciding with the start of the autumn semester in England, new studies have shown.
The study conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori between September 9 and 27 showed that infections were increasing in those under 18, but falling in those aged 18 to 54.
Few school children aged five to 17 have been vaccinated in the UK and currently only single doses are offered to people aged 12 and over.
However, ministers were criticized for the slow roll-out of the vaccination program in secondary schools and earlier this week asked parents to vaccinate their children.
The results of the React-1 study also support the need for vaccine boosters, as there was a higher prevalence of those with double vaccinations tested positive within three to six months of being vaccinated.
Researchers say it is important that the vaccination program maintain high coverage and reach children and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adults in order to reduce transmission and the associated interruptions to work and education.
It came after the latest numbers from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that an estimated one in 15 children in school years seven through eleven in England had coronavirus in the week ending October 2.
Preliminary data from the government’s coronavirus dashboard suggests 11.7% of 12-15 year olds in England were vaccinated on October 10, compared with 38.9% of 12-15 year olds in Scotland.
According to the React study, the overall vaccine effectiveness against infections was estimated to be around 63% to 66% overall.
More than 100,000 volunteers took part in the study to examine the extent of Covid-19 in the general population.
The latest data shows the prevalence of the virus in the UK population has risen to 0.83%.
Regionally, the prevalence ranged from 0.57% in the Southeast to 1.25% in Yorkshire and The Humber.
There was evidence of growth in both East Midlands and London with R’s of 1.36 and 1.59, respectively.
In households with one or more children, the prevalence was also higher at 1.32% than in households without children at 0.42%.
Dr. Jenny Harries, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Health Authority, said: “These data show that while our vaccination program continues to make a big difference, the pandemic is not over.
“As winter approaches, it is as important as ever to continue acting responsibly to avoid transmission.”
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the Imperial School of Public Health’s React program, said, “Our latest data shows that infections are high and increasing in school-age children.
“Households with children also had a higher prevalence of infection, suggesting that children may pass the virus on to those they live with.
“These trends reinforce the importance of children 12 and older to get vaccinated, contain the spread of infections, and minimize disruptions to education.”
Additional reporting by PA