For the first time in this pandemic, children are relatively unprotected from the virus. With the new school and third level education terms beginning in September, the Irish State will be gathering the largest unvaccinated proportion of our society indoors at a time where many of the protective public health measures in place have been relaxed or removed, and when those adults who have been vaccinated are being encouraged to relax, to go out, and to take up the “vaccine bonus”.
Today, ISAG have published a draft discussion document:
“Back to School 2021 – What we need to do to protect our children” to which we welcome comments from all.
This paper will be discussed at a public meeting and press conference:
Wednesday 18th August 2021, at 12pm.
Register in advance for this conference and public meeting at:
Education indoors, in combination with the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, means that our children have never before been at more risk of infection and disease. We have never before had case numbers so high while also having such comparatively light restrictions. The high case numbers are concentrated in the unvaccinated among us, which is predominantly younger people who are either ineligible or still awaiting vaccination.
For children and young people, and the rest of society, the outcome of this change in our circumstance remains to be seen. But, if we apply evidence-based decision making and act now to minimise harm, rather than repeat the “trial and error” approach which has characterised much of the Government response over the past 18 months, the risk of infection in our children can be reduced. The worst outcome would be, again, for our Government to fail to prepare when the risks are entirely foreseeable and the risk mitigation measures affordable.
We must accept the hard truths that:
1. without urgent action, mass infection of unvaccinated school-going children will occur;
2. some unvaccinated children will end up in hospital due to COVID-19;
3. a significant proportion of infected children will suffer the harm of Long Covid; and
4. school buildings without basic protection measures increase the transmission of COVID19.
A political decision must be made not to allow mass infection of children in Ireland.
We must ensure that existing measures to reduce the spread of COVID19 in schools are maintained, including:
Vaccination of children aged 12 to 15;
Rapid isolation of cases and contacts;
Weekly mass-testing across school settings.
We must strengthen these protective measures by also:
Requiring high-quality masks for both teachers and pupils in schools, including primary schools;
Ensuring safe air-quality standards in schools, with ventilation and HEPA filtration;
Installing CO₂ monitors permanently in each classroom and developing protocols for safe air-quality maintenance;
Increasing the space available to schools so they can meet social distancing requirements;
Transparently and rapidly reporting school cases;
Preparing for the vaccination of under 12’s as, if, and when this is approved;
Assessing the role of regular saliva based PCR testing ;
Every effort to prevent COVID19 transmission in the community using vaccination, risk mitigation, and test, trace, and supported isolation.
The Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) is concerned that everything possible is done to protect these children and young people and those who care for them. ISAG agrees with the September 2020 advice of the WHO Director General: that the “time during which schools are closed should be used to put in place measures to prevent and respond to transmission when schools reopen.” Last year, Irish schools did a great deal of work to reduce risks, but schools alone cannot control COVID19.
ISAG (Independent Scientific Advocacy Group) is offering the group’s expertise and experience to work together with Governments and the people to aim for Zero Covid, meaning zero mystery cases in our shared islands. Founded by Anthony Staines, Gerry Killeen, and Tomás Ryan in June 2020, I.S.A.G. is independent of the government. All of our members are volunteers and they freely commit their time every week to discuss the COVID-19 science that underpins our governments’ response strategies. ISAG is a multidisciplinary group of scientists, academics, and researchers who have come together to advocate for a SARS-CoV-2 elimination strategy. I.S.A.G. has published several papers outlining its strategy and recommendations, and you can find them at www.isagcovid19.org