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Devi Sridhar: Separate JCVI could be better for Scotland


Professor Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, has been a strong advocate of Covid vaccines for children and wanted to see them advised earlier by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) .

But she thinks the London-based committee, which advises all UK governments, “didn’t feel the same urgency”, as experts and leaders in Scotland, particularly over the summer of 2021 when it it’s about 12 to 15 years old, because the school holidays end later. in England than in Scotland.

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A Scottish version of the committee, or one in London with more Scottish experts, could make decisions better suited to local people, Prof Sridhar suggested.

Devi Sridhar, Professor and Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh July 20, 2020

“Science is a reserved matter, and JCVI, the committee that decides that, is based in London. It’s a UK-wide committee, and you can’t really undo it,” she said, adding that while devolved governments could have vaccinated children earlier, because they don’t are not bound by the advice of the JCVI, they “did not feel expert enough to go into a dangerous position”.

‘I think what you should have had was a Scottish version of JCVI, which would have allowed them to advise ministers to vaccinate,’ she said.

The same problem has been experienced in Wales and Northern Ireland, she added, as none of the devolved nations have local committees.

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Felix Dima, 13, from Newcastle receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Excelsior Academy on September 22, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Prof Sridhar said he was “frustrated” by JCVI’s delay in advising 12-15 year olds to be vaccinated in the summer of 2021.

The vaccine was approved in this age group by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in June, but was not advised by the JCVI until September, although the Chief Medical Officer Scottish Professor Gregor Smith wrote to the committee in July urging them to review this.

The JCVI said in August that there was “more uncertainty” in the balance of potential benefits and harms of vaccinating this age group, adding that it was considering the accumulation of data and the developments in the epidemiology of Covid in the UK, and would provide further guidance in a timely manner.”

“I was saying we don’t have that much time, because our kids are going home in August, and in England it’s September…England had a bit more time,” Prof Sridhar said.

She added: “You need structures that understand the local context, whether it’s local hospitals, the local NHS, local school systems and those who are sensitive to it.

“It could be a Scottish JCVI or it could be more Scottish experts on the JCVI, so they understand.”

Scotland has a different school structure and system to the NHS, Prof Sridhar said, as well as demographic differences.

She compared the question to her previous work abroad: “You don’t talk about South Africa without a South African in the room…if we want to talk about Ghana, I have to talk to a Ghanaian.

“It’s the same, you need to have someone who understands what’s going on in Scotland if you’re deciding on vaccination policy in Scotland.

“It could be integrating that into this structure or creating a complementary one.”

Prof Sridhar said she was not making a ‘nationalist point’, adding that during the pandemic she had found politics ‘very heightened’ in Scotland.

Originally from Miami, Professor Sridhar moved to Edinburgh around the 2014 independence referendum and found that some people interpreted his positive comments about the city and Scotland as a whole as pro-independence, while they did not want to be political.

Twitter in particular can be “a pretty angry platform,” she said, adding that she deleted her account once but reopened it 12 hours later after her inbox and those of her colleagues were overwhelmed by messages from members of the public asking if anything had happened to her.

Although she suffered abuse – with police investigating anti-mask threats – she didn’t experience much racism or zenophobia towards her American accent.

“In a way, it’s been refreshing,” she said.

“Maybe we’ve progressed as a society that actually someone like me can exist in the world today and not deal with it in my daily life, even in recent years, like a big fat problem.”

However, misogyny was another story.

“I sometimes felt like I was being scrutinized more than my male colleagues, who can get away with saying a lot of things and no one calls them,” she said.

“And then you say something and all of a sudden you get all the spotlight on how you could have said that or done that.

“We know the bar is higher for women. It’s kind of a universal truth, and what do you do? Are you hiding from it? That’s why I think you see women who don’t want to go there because they don’t want the scrutiny.

“That means you only leave that space for male commentators and male scientists. I just continued, because I still think women should have so much space.

“You can’t control what people say to you, but you can control how you react. And I think I got better, like we all do in the workplace, by reacting to it, either with humor or being more defensive.

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