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Expert comment - COVID-19 in schools in England

Important data from the Schools Infection Survey included in analysis of statistics around the prevalence of COVID-19 in schools in England.
High school class. Credit: Canva/Monkey Business Images

The Office for National Statistics has published an analysis of data on COVID-19 cases in school pupils aged four to 15 years old attending state-funded schools, up to 31 December 2021. It examines the prevalence of COVID-19 amongst students in different demographics and geographic locations, as well as with differing vaccine status. One of the projects contributing to this data is the Schools Infection Survey (SIS), which is jointly led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Dr Patrick Nguipdop Djomo, Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at LSHTM and co-chief investigator of SIS, commented on the importance of this data.

Dr Nguipdop Djomo said: “This analysis of national data is an important resource for ongoing monitoring of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness in England, especially with children aged 12 and over now eligible to receive the vaccine. A key finding is that one dose provided modest protection against infection in the first half of term when the Delta variant was dominant, but less so in the second half of term when the Omicron variant was becoming more prevalent and vaccine-related immunity may have declined.

“These findings support the importance of vaccination, including a second dose, to reduce risk of illness and school absences as we move into the exam period this spring. It also emphasises the need to continue with good ventilation, and other local measures such as mask wearing may also be helpful if the numbers of infections in school pupils accelerate. Further analyses should look into the effectiveness of two doses, as well as the role of prior infection, to fully understand how much protection against infection they provide for school children.”

Publication

Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in school pupils, England: up to 22 December 2021. Office for National Statistics.

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