Friday Five

Jabs for five to 11-year-olds, drinking wine health risks, catching Covid link with depression and Lassa fever case – this week’s Friday Five

England to offer Covid jab to five to 11-year-olds

Children aged between five and 11 in England will be offered a low-dose Covid vaccine, the government says. Official scientific advice concludes the move would help protect the “very small” number of children who become seriously ill with Covid. Northern Ireland also said on Wednesday it will be following Wales and Scotland in offering young children the vaccine.

Children are at a much lower risk of becoming severely ill from a Covid infection, so the health benefits of vaccinating them are smaller than in other age-groups. Also, many will have some protection from already having caught the virus. So the scientists on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises governments across the UK, have been weighing up the evidence for immunising five to 11-year-olds. It concluded vaccination should go ahead to prevent a “very small number of children from serious illness and hospitalisation” in a future wave of Covid.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The NHS will prepare to extend this non-urgent offer to all children during April so parents can, if they want, take up the offer to increase protection against potential future waves of Covid-19 as we learn to live with this virus.”He emphasised that children are at low risk from Covid and that the “priority remains for the NHS to offer vaccines and boosters to adults and vulnerable young people” and to catch-up with other childhood immunisation programmes”.

Read the full story in BBC News.

Two glasses of wine can exceed daily sugar limit

Adults can exceed their recommended daily limit of sugar by drinking just two glasses of wine, experts have warned. Drinks can also be packed with calories and in some cases two glasses of wine can contain more calories than a hamburger. The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) said product labelling on alcoholic drinks was “woefully inadequate” as it published new analysis of popular wines.

The AHA, which represents more than 60 health organisations, said there was a wide variation of sugar and calories across different wines, but that with this information missing from most labels, consumers were “being kept in the dark” about what they were drinking. It said that government guidelines recommend that adults consume no more than 30g of so-called free sugars a day, but that it was possible to reach almost this entire amount by drinking two medium glasses of wine.

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the AHA, said: “Alcohol’s current exemption from food and drink labelling rules is absurd. Shoppers who buy milk or orange juice have sugar content and nutritional information right at their fingertips. But this information is not required when it comes to alcohol – a product not just fuelling obesity but with widespread health harms and linked to seven types of cancer. The government must publish its planned consultation on alcohol labelling without further delay – which we have been waiting for since 2020.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Catching coronavirus increases the chance of depression, study suggests

People who have had COVID-19 are more likely to go on to suffer depression and anxiety, a study has suggested. US researchers looked at data for 153,848 people who had experienced coronavirus and compared them with more than 560,000 with no history of COVID and a further large control group from before the pandemic.

The results showed that COVID-19 was associated with an increased risk of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, substance use and sleep problems, up to a year after infection. Compared with the non-infected group, people with COVID-19 showed a 60% higher risk of a mental health diagnosis or needing a mental health prescription at the one-year point. Anxiety rates were 35% higher among those who had had COVID and 39% higher for depression. People were also 55% more likely to use anti-depressants.

Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Many people face an uphill battle to rebuild their lives,” adding: “Treatment is vital but complicated by the reality that most people experiencing mental health difficulties after infection don’t seek help. Actively monitoring the recovery of patients through a ‘screen and treat’ programme can help make sure they get the right kind of mental health care at the right time.”

Read the full story in Sky News.

Lassa fever case sparks ‘major incident’ across region’s NHS

The East of England region has declared a major incident due to a case of Lassa fever at a major teaching hospital knocking out significant critical care capacity. The move follows a case being treated at Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust, which has been forced to close “a substantial portion of our critical care capacity” as a result. Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus and is endemic in a number of West African countries.

The patient has now been transferred to a London hospital, understood to be infectious disease centre the Royal Free. But dozens of staff in critical care at CUH are now expected to have to isolate for up to three weeks, because they were in contact with the individual. The absences mean that CUH, which is a regional critical care centre, has had to close dozens of intensive care beds.

Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at UKHSA, said: “Cases of Lassa fever are rare in the UK and it does not spread easily between people. The overall risk to the public is very low. We are contacting the individuals who have had close contact with the cases prior to confirmation of their infection, to provide appropriate assessment, support and advice.”

Read the full story in the HSJ.


Quote of the week

London mayor Sadiq Khan is calling for health workers to play a greater role in raising awareness of the risks of air pollution and how patients can protect themselves.

“We simply don’t have time to waste – deadly air pollution is permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners and affecting older people who are more vulnerable to the impacts of poor air quality”

Read the full story in Sky News.