Prioritising the non-vulnerable may help protect the vulnerable

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The primary assumption with rolling out vaccines is that you want to make sure that the highly vulnerable get the vaccine first, so you start with the over 80s and then the over 70s and those with medical conditions. There is a lot of wisdom in that. 

However, a comment by our local Public Health Director got me thinking about whether some counter intuitive thinking might help. 

She commented that prioritisation of teaching staff would minimise disruption to schools if we are serious about keeping education going. In response I suggested that this would be further helped if we extended the vaccine to exam year students or to 15-18 year olds.

Then I realised that there might be another advantage to that. Recent charts have suggested that there are high incidents of the virus in that age group and whilst they are low on the priority list in terms of vulnerability, that isn’t the only way of looking at things. There is a reason why vulnerable people catch COVID, it’s because the disease spreads and so they come into contact with it.  The new variant seems to spread more effectively than the original virus.  So, whilst 15-18 year olds may themselves be particularly robust in terms of disease survival, they may well be carrying a greater risk of spreading the disease, especially in the absence of effective social distancing. 

So, why not prioritise vaccinating teenagers and students? Indeed, wouldn’t that be a better use of resources now than trying to establish mass testing in schools.  Instead of a weekly test for the virus, you give each student two injections and it is job done.

Linked to that, I would look at where the virus is causing the most concern, where are the super-spreaders? Where are the clusters? Get into those areas with the vaccine and I suspect it will radically dampen down the spread.

Once again, this is about stopping and having a little bit of curiosity to think outside of the box rather than just ploughing on with the same conventional assumptions that have often left us defenceless in a very non-conventional situation