Ditching flu vaccination campaign ‘has put under fives at risk’
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been blamed for an explosion in the number of children contracting flu after his decision to cancel a vaccination programme for under-fives. Last night Labour demanded a rethink after the Coalition ditched an immunisation programme for those aged between six months and five years old, which was brought in last year to combat the spread of swine flu.
The Health Secretary also faced calls to reinstate a £1.5million advertising campaign to encourage the vulnerable to get immunised as figures revealed that take-up for children has dropped.
Doctors have expressed alarm that the two decisions have left thousands of children at risk of contracting deadly strains of the virus. Nine of the 27 people who have died of flu this winter are children, while 26 of the 460 patients now in intensive care with flu are aged under five.
The Department of Health’s own figures show that immunisation rates among children and other at-risk groups are down on last year.
In January, the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advised that it would be ‘prudent’ to include children aged six months to five years in this winter’s flu vaccine programme. But the advice was dropped in July after it was sent to Mr Lansley.
Labour health spokesman John Healey said Mr Lansley had ‘made the wrong judgment’ in ditching the vaccinations for young children. He told the Daily Mail: ‘The serious problem lies with the groups that are most at risk, like children.
‘That has come because the Government axed the annual advertising campaign and they cancelled the flu jab plan for the under-fives. ‘The Health Secretary has been silent. The only attention he’s paid to preparations for this winter’s flu outbreak was to axe the autumn advertising campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated and make them aware of the risks. ‘He made the wrong judgment which has left many people without the flu protection they should have.
‘The lessons were learned last year and they have been quickly forgotten. ‘We know this is not normal winter flu, which affects the elderly. This is flu that affects the young.’
He said the £1.5million saved by ending the advertising campaign would be overshadowed by the costs of keeping flu victims in intensive care.
Figures published by the Royal College of General Practitioners show that the under-fives are the second worst hit group when it comes to flu infections, with 124 out of every 100,000 suffering illness. Only those aged five to 14, where 160 out of 100,000 have contracted a virus, are worse off. By contrast, among the more heavily inoculated over-65s, just 17 out of every 100,000 pensioners have gone down with flu.
Dr George Kassianos, immunisation spokesman for the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘Children disperse the virus much more than any other group. ‘So, if we vaccinate the young, we protect everyone else, including parents and other young people.’
Professor John Oxford, a virologist, said: ‘The time has come to move to vaccinating young children. I appreciate mothers are concerned but the vaccine is safe and swine flu is not.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘The Department does not intend to run a central marketing campaign. ‘Strategies to increase vaccine uptake are best led locally as they need to be tailored to local needs.’
The NHS Direct helpline faces its busiest day of the year today, as the service is stretched to breaking point. A deluge of 30,000 calls is expected due to the rise in swine flu cases, the worst outbreak of seasonal flu for a decade and injuries caused by the snow and ice. The service admits callers have had to wait up to 20 hours for help over the Christmas holiday after inquiries surged by 50 per cent.
Meanwhile, cuts in funding of around £20million have increased pressures, according to Unison, the UK’s largest union. Figures show 460 adults and children are in intensive care in England because of flu, taking up one in seven of all available beds.
Christian assemblies in British schools face axe over claims they infringe children’s human rights
Christian assemblies in schools could be scrapped if campaigning atheists and teachers get their way. According to the National Secular Society, a legal requirement for pupils to take part in a daily act of collective worship ‘of a broadly Christian character’ discriminates against young atheists and non-Christians, and infringes human rights.
And the campaign has support from headmasters who claim that many schools already ignore the requirement, despite it being set in stone since the passing of the 1944 Education Act. The Association of School and College Leaders has also suggested assemblies should end, and the British Humanist Association is campaigning on the subject.
But the most direct attack on religious assemblies, which represents yet another assault on Britain’s historic Christian culture, has come in a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove from Keith Porteous, executive director of the National Secular Society.
Mr Porteous wrote: ‘We believe that the mandatory daily acts of mainly Christian worship and, in particular, the imposition on children to take part in such acts, represent an infringement of rights. ‘We recognise that assemblies with an ethical framework have a vital contribution to make to school life. ‘We do, however, object to collective worship in principle, as not being a legitimate activity of a state-funded institution. ‘We are confident that you would not wish to perpetuate a law that is routinely disregarded. We hope that, under your leadership, the law will be changed so that it is brought out of disrepute.’
The letter goes on to urge the Education Secretary to scrap the requirement to stage Christian assemblies in an education bill due to be produced next year.
Although parents can withdraw their children from such assemblies simply by writing a letter to the headmaster or headmistress, the atheist campaigners claim many fear such letters could make their children targets for bullying.
The National Secular Society had already prompted outrage this year by launching legal action using the much-derided Human Rights Act to stop councils beginning meetings with prayers. If such action was taken through the appropriate courts, religious assemblies could ultimately be ruled illegal.
The campaigning atheists have willing supporters inside the school system, with many of them saying schools do not have big enough halls to accommodate all their pupils every morning.
Paul Kelley, the headmaster of Monkseaton High School, Tyne and Wear, has claimed that most schools ignore the requirement to stage a daily collective act of worship anyway. Five years ago he lobbied the Labour government to scrap the requirement, but was told the House of Lords would never approve such a move.
The Association of School and College Leaders has also backed calls for an end to the law on daily religious assemblies, saying that in reality they often simply did not happen. ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said: ‘Many schools aren’t doing the daily act of worship and theoretically they are breaking the law.’
The Church of England, however, is strongly opposed to changing the law. A spokesman said: ‘To deny children the entitlement to take part in worship at school is to deny them a learning experience that is increasingly important in the modern world.’
And the Department for Education said the Government was not planning to bring an end to compulsory Christian assemblies. A spokesman said: ‘The Government believes that the requirement for collective worship in schools encourages pupils to reflect on the concept of belief and the role it plays in the traditions and values of this country.
‘Schools have the flexibility to design provision that is appropriate to the age and background of their pupils. ‘If a headteacher feels it is inappropriate to have Christian collective worship, the school can apply to have this changed.’
As blizzards batter the US East coast, even some “Guardian” readers are becoming skeptical about Warmism
Excerpts below from both the “Guardian” article and comments from its readers:
The East coast of the US was today recovering from a blizzard that brought air travel to a standstill in New York and other cities, paralysed rail services and hit a dozen states.
More than 3,000 flights were cancelled, mostly from New York’s three main airports, stranding tens of thousands of people returning home and to work after the Christmas holiday on some of the busiest travel days of the year.
Planes were grounded in New York through most of Sunday and much of today, while airports along the east coast grappled with cancellations and long delays that were expected to continue for several days.
Six states, from North Carolina to New Jersey, declared snow emergencies, including Virginia. South Carolina and Georgia had their first Christmas snow in more than a century.
New York’s central park was buried under about 50cm of snow, and parts of New Jersey recorded 75cm in a few hours. Strong winds, gusting up to 55mph, helped create drifts more than one metre deep.
Hundreds of passengers were stuck on at least three New York subway trains through the night because of the snow. Although some were theoretically able to leave the trains, officials said there was nowhere for them to go. Others were trapped between stations for hours.
The city’s emergency services asked people not to call for an ambulance unless absolutely necessary after many became stuck in snow.
Some of the comments:
Well this wasn’t what they were predicting a few years ago is it?
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, October 4, 2006 (ENS) – Global warming will cause major changes to the climate of the U.S. Northeast if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, scientists said today. Warmer annual temperatures, less snow, more frequent droughts and more extreme rainstorms are expected if current warming trends continue, the scientists said in a new study, and time is running out for action to avoid such changes to the climate.
The Northeast’s climate is already changing, the report said, as spring is arriving sooner, summers are hotter and winters are warmer and less snowy.
The report was released by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA), a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of independent scientists from universities across the Northeast and the nation.
That’s the climate science view (as of four years ago).
One Arctic Tern does not a winter make, so to speak.
But that cuts both ways. The run of mild winters was a relatively short one, and yet we had the Union of Concerned Scientists telling us that:
“Across the globe, and here in the Northeast, the climate is changing. Records show that spring is arriving earlier, summers are growing hotter, and winters are becoming warmer and less snowy. These changes are consistent with global warming, an urgent phenomenon driven by heat-trapping emissions from human activities”
Well which is it? Can we detect anthropogenic forcing from winter weather or can’t we? I’m guessing the answer is yes, but over longer time scales. I think 30 years is the usual period stated.
So why do they rush out a report after a run of only five or six mild winters claiming it as validation of their climate models? Where was the caveat that global warming could lead to snowier, colder winters in that report?
You may well be right, although I haven’t been able to find a peer-reviewed article stating that 2010 was the warmest year ever globally. Perhaps you could direct me to one in a reputable academic journal?
But here’s something to consider: the world has been warming gradually since the end of what’s colloquially known as “the little ice age” around 1850. So you would expect each year to be a little warmer than the preceding year, broadly speaking.
The IPCC states that anthropogenic forcing can only be considered detectable after 1970, as Co2 emission prior to that were not large enough to affect the climate.
So, the question is not whether the globe is getting warmer – temperature change of some kind is always happening – but whether that warming is anomalous and if it is, whether it can be conclusively tied to Co2 emissions.
Simply stating that any given year was warmer than the year before does not prove anthropogenic forcing. But I’m sure you knew that.
Christians ‘are denied human rights by our courts,’ claim British bishop and top judge
An Anglican bishop and Britain’s former top judge yesterday launched an impassioned defence of the rights of Christians in an increasingly secular society. The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, said judges wrongly discriminate against people of faith because they are ignorant of religious beliefs.
He said failure to support the beliefs of Christians and other religious people could drive them from their jobs and blamed the Human Rights Act for allowing them to be victimised.
The bishop was backed by ex-Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, who said the courts had gone ‘too far’ in restricting the rights of Christians in the workplace. He said it was ‘about time the tide turned’.
The two were speaking at the end of a year in which Christian relationship counsellor Gary McFarlane lost his appeal against dismissal after he refused to give sex therapy to a homosexual couple, and nurse Shirley Chaplin lost a discrimination case after she was moved to a back office job because she wore a crucifix.
During the General Election campaign, David Cameron promised to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which would spell out rights and responsibilities based on British traditions. But that promise has been watered down by the Coalition agreement, which promises only to set up a commission to ‘investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights’.
Yesterday the bishop said he ‘generally welcomed’ the Human Rights Act but said it was being used without reference to religious sensibilities. He said: ‘There is growing up something of an imbalance in the legal position with regard to the freedom of Christians and people of other faiths to pursue the calling of their faith in public life, in public service. One major context is obviously the Human Rights Act.’
He condemned the treatment of Mr McFarlane, who was sacked by Relate after refusing to give sex therapy to a gay couple because it contradicted his religious beliefs. The bishop said: ‘We have had a statement from a senior judge this year that matters of Christian belief were only matters of opinion and the law couldn’t possibly take countenance of them in coming to decisions about the rights and wrongs of particular behaviour in the workplace.’
He argued it was not an option for Christians to keep their faith private. ‘Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them. Manifesting your faith is part of having it and not part of some optional bolt-on.’
He said in the McFarlane case, ‘judgment seemed to be following contemporary society, which seems to think that secularist views are statements of the obvious and religious views are notions in the mind. That is the culture in which we are living. The judges ought to be religiously literate.’ He also accused Parliament of having behaved ‘quite tyrannically’ over the treatment of Catholic adoption societies, which were told they would have to accept gay and non Christian staff.
Lord Woolf said the bishop’s complaints did have ‘a grounding in the facts’ and added: ‘I think it’s a very good thing that you voice those concerns because the tide goes in and the tide goes out in these areas and sometimes it’s about time the tide turned a bit and started to go back. We may have gone too far.
‘The law must be above any sectional interest even if it is an interest of a faith but at the same time it must be aware of the proper concerns of that faith. ‘The law should be developed in ways that, wherever practicable, it allows that faith to be preserved and protected.’
My father got to work even when the sea froze… then came 50 years of ‘progress’
Peter Hitchens comments from Britain
Actually I didn’t much like the Fifties, which I remember as bleak and chilly and smelling of damp raincoats, stale tobacco, suet pudding and cabbage. Not to mention the chilblains.
It is the fate of those who don’t much like the present to be told all the time that they are yearning for some bit of the past, when they’re not. Even so, as I try not to laugh too loud at the pretensions of the supposedly advanced modern world, I cannot help being fairly sure that the past 50 years or so have not been a matter of unmixed progress.
I remember winters when the sea at the end of our road actually turned to ice, winters when the milk on the doorstep froze into a sort of dairy rocket, with the foil top perched on the solidified cream, winters when our garden was full of gigantic snowballs for weeks on end.
And as far as I can recall, my father still went off to his work each day and so did everyone else. The trains and buses continued to run, the roads and pavements were swiftly cleared of ice and snow.
In that Britain of town clerks, rural district councils, bus conductors with peaked caps station masters, the Gas Board, unreformed county boundaries, yards, feet, inches, pounds and ounces, we somehow managed to be far more efficient than we are in the days of chief executives, Metropolitan Authorities, Network Rail, centimetres and kilograms.
And I think more and more that we have mistaken newness, modernity and packaging for reality.
Yes, of course, the narrow, shabby restrained country of 50 years ago had its drawbacks. What is interesting is how many of them we have managed to retain in our frenzy of change – the deep and wasteful class divisions, the bad diet and general poor health, the neglect of the old, the grim cities – though now they are grim in a different, more modern way.
Our supposed progress, by contrast, is often a shallow matter of possessions, plastic and paint, accompanied by a shocking level of incompetence and defeatism, which afflict us when we face any sort of challenge – from foot-and-mouth disease to a few inches of snow.
At Christmas, in some strange but powerful way, the past lives in our minds as at no other time. Perhaps those of us who still remember it should recognise honestly during this moving and reflective season that in our haste for change and modernisation, we have lost at least as much as we have gained.
The Speaker of Britain’s House of Commons mocks and opposes free speech about homosexuality
The Speaker is supposed to be an impartial president of the assembly. The present Speaker, Bercow, is a pipsqueak of Jewish origins who once pretended to be a strong conservative but who made a sharp turn Left when that seemed more likely to further his ambitions. It did. He was made Speaker by Labour Party votes.
“Before he was Speaker Mr Bercow supported the previous Government’s attempt to remove a free speech safeguard from a sexual orientation ‘hate speech’ law.
The current law says that, for the avoidance of doubt, criticising same-sex conduct or urging people to refrain from such conduct is not, in itself, a crime.
It was inserted by Parliament to a sexual orientation ‘hate crime’ law following a string of alarming cases where Christians had been investigated by the police for their beliefs about sexual ethics.
Mr Bercow has said the free speech amendment is “at best superfluous, and at worst deeply objectionable”. He has added: “Some—although not all—of its supporters would not even know how to spell the word ‘equality’, let alone sign up to it.”