Friday Five

Children’s mental health, ‘discriminatory’ vaccine rule, overprescription of medicine and Pfizer trial in primary school – this week’s Friday Five

Mental health referrals for children double during pandemic

The toll of the pandemic on children’s mental health has been revealed in a new analysis which shows record numbers of children and young people are seeking access to NHS mental health services.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists found that between April and June this year, 190,271 children aged 18 and under were referred to children and young people’s mental health services – almost twice the number referred during the same period in 2019.

Dr Elaine Lockhart, the college’s child and adolescent faculty chair said “These alarming figures reflect what I and many other frontline psychiatrists are seeing in our clinics on a daily basis…The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the nation’s mental health, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that children and young people are suffering terribly.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Patients in England prescribed unnecessary and harmful treatments

A report has revealed that one-tenth of items dispensed by GPs and other primary care are unnecessary and potentially damaging. It has suggested that 15% of people take five or more medicines a day, and that some of those treatments are to deal with side-effects of the others.

The number of items dispensed by GPs have doubled in recent years, from an average of 10 per person in 1996 to around 20 per person now. The effects of overprescription can be seen in hospital admissions: 6.5% of hospital admissions are caused by adverse effects of medicines and this rises 20% in the over-65s group.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “With our growing and ageing population, with more patients living with multiple, chronic conditions, many people are taking several medications in order to manage their various health illnesses, and the interaction between various medicines is something prescribers will take into account… In most cases, these medicines are necessary, appropriate and of benefit for the patient – but the aspiration to reduce the number of medications a patient is taking, where safe and possible, is a good one.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

British Covid-19 vaccine rule denounced as ‘discriminatory’

New travel rules in England which refuse to recognise vaccines administered across Latin America, Africa and South Asia have been criticised as illogical and discriminatory. Under the new rules, only travellers who are fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna or Janssen will be exempt from quarantine when they arrive in England from an amber list country.

On Monday, the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor announced he was pulling out of a series of appearances in England to protest this ‘offensive’ decision.

A west African diplomat condemned the restrictions and said “It’s not even the discrimination that concerns me the most, it’s the message it sends out… All around the world we’re struggling with vaccine hesitancy. There’s all sorts of fake news. When you say, ‘We are not going to accept the vaccine from Africa, you lend credence to these kinds of theories. It’s only going to create a situation where it allows the pandemic to be prolonged.’

Read the full story in The Times.

Pfizer vaccine trial in primary school displays no dangerous side effects

The first large trial of a Covid vaccine in primary school children, which involved nearly 2,300 American children aged between five and 11, found that the Pfizer jab produces a robust immune response and detected no dangerous side effects.

A month after two doses that were a third of the size of those given to adults, the children had antibody levels comparable to those seen in 16–25-year-olds in previous trials, assumed to signal good levels of protection. However, vaccine advisers to the government in the UK have said that they are keen to see more data on two very rare side effects that have been linked to the Pfizer jab in young people — myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, inflammation of the lining around the heart.

Dr David Elliman, a consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said of the Pfizer trial results for 5–11-year-olds: “Covid infection is rarely serious in this group. In view of its decision in relation to using the vaccine in 12–15-year-olds, I cannot imagine the JCVI approving its use in younger children.

Read the full story in The Times.


Quote of the week

Dame Sarah Gilbert, the creator of the Oxford jab, spoke at a Royal Society of Medicine webinar on Wednesday and said that the coronavirus is unlikely to mutate into a deadlier, vaccine-evading variant…

“We normally see that viruses become less virulent as they circulate more easily and there is no reason to think we will have a more virulent version of Sars-CoV-2… The virus can’t completely mutate because its spike protein has to interact with the ACE2 receptor on the surface of the human cell, in order to get inside that cell. If it changes its spike protein so much that it can’t interact with that receptor, then it’s not going to be able to get inside the cell. So there aren’t very many places for the virus to go to have something that will evade immunity but still be a really infectious virus.”

Find out more from The Independent.