The Covid-19 infection rate of young children is nearly three time that of the UK’s adult population, a new government-backed study has found.
The REACT-1 study, created in partnership between Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, made the conclusion after analysing data from around 97,000 volunteers between 23 November and 14 December.
The study took place while Omicron began spreading throughout the country, with experts also concluding that Omicron became the dominant strain three times faster than Delta overtook the original Alpha variant.
Infection rate of kids ‘three times higher’
The results of the study estimated that around 4.47% of children between the ages of five and 11-years-old were infected with coronavirus, while just 1.41% of the general adult population having the virus.
The news comes as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in primary school-aged children who are vulnerable to the virus.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recently updated its advice after a robust-review that a low-dose version of the vaccine was safe for children in this category.
They have also recommended that some older children be offered a booster to top up their immunity.
Experts say that the study provided evidence that the vaccine rollout to secondary school-aged children and the expansion of the booster programme to young adults may have helped to curb infections in these age groups.
Secondary school-aged children were previously the worst-affected age group before the vaccine was available to them.
Vaccines in younger age groups showing ‘encouraging results’
Professor Paul Elliot, who led the research, said that the results of the study show the positive effect that vaccines have on the infection rates.
She said: “The positive news is that both the teenage vaccination and booster programmes have already shown encouraging results, with prevalence amongst 12 to 17-year-olds and those aged 65 and above dropping significantly since the beginning of November.”
His comments were echoed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who said: “The latest REACT-1 data is yet more evidence that boosters are vital in protecting us from the Omicron variant.
“While infections may be rising rapidly across the country, you can protect yourself, your friends, family and community by getting boosted now – like 28 million others across the UK so far.”
The study did however highlight the rapid rise in Omicron, with results showing that the odds of being infected with Omicron rather than Delta rose at a rate of 66% per day.
This was more than three times than the rate at which Delta multiplied to overtake the original Alpha infection.
He said: “The results reported in this round of REACT show that Omicron is spreading rapidly in England and especially in London, which now has the highest prevalence of Covid in the country.
“Compared to the Delta variant, the proportion of Omicron cases is increasingly rapidly.”
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