Girl, 15, dies from Covid on the day she was due to be vaccinated

A mother whose 15-year-old daughter died from Covid on the day she was due to be vaccinated has warned of children being too ‘blasé’ about the virus as she paid tribute to her ‘beautiful’ and ‘courageous’ girl. 

Jorja Halliday was rushed to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, Hampshire, after her flu-like symptoms left her unable to keep water down and saw her heart rate reach double its normal pace.  

Despite being placed on a ventilator, the aspiring musician and talented kickboxer, never stabilised as her heart was under too much strain and she died on September 28 –  just four days after receiving her PCR test results. 

Preliminary results from the hospital’s medical examiner indicate the sporty teenager, who did not have any known underlying medical conditions, had Covid myocarditis – a heart inflammation caused by the virus.    

Deaths from Covid are extremely rare among children, with data showing young people face a one in 500,000 risk of dying from the coronavirus.

In England, just 25 under-18s died from Covid, which equates to around two in a million, in the first year of the pandemic, a study found.   

Young people with pre-existing medical conditions, like heart disease and cancer, and severe disability, which can include cerebral palsy and autism, have a higher chance of becoming seriously ill from the virus.

But scientists from University College London, the University of York and the University of Liverpool said this risk is ‘extremely low’.  

Jorja Halliday died from Covid at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, Hampshire, on September 28

Jorja Halliday died from Covid at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, Hampshire, on September 28

Jorja Halliday died from Covid at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, Hampshire, on September 28

What is myocarditis?

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. There are no specific causes of the condition but it is usually triggered by a virus, including Covid.

Some of the most common infections which cause myocarditis, are those called adenovirus and Coxsackie B.

It can also be caused by the common cold, hepatitis B and C, and herpes simplex virus.

The most common symptoms of the condition include chest pain, a fever, a fast heartbeat, tiredness and shortness of breath.

If the inflammation damages the heart muscle or the fibres that conduct electrical pulses to the heart, complications can develop.

They can develop quickly, and include sudden loss of consciousness, an abnormally fast, slow or irregular heartbeat.

In very severe cases the condition is fatal, causing heart failure or sudden death. The inflammation enlarges the heart and creates scar tissue, forcing it to work harder and therefore making it weaker.

In most cases of viral myocarditis, the illness goes away and there are no complications.

But in rare cases when inflammation is severe, there can be damage to the heart which needs monitoring and possibly a heart transplant. 

Myocarditis has also been linked to the Pfizer and Moderna jabs but the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said cases are ‘extremely rare’. 

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Paying tribute to her daughter, Jorja’s mother, Tracey Halliday, 40, said that the GCSE student at The Portsmouth Academy was a ‘loving girl’  who ‘always wanted to help others’.   

Ms Halliday said Jorja was struggling to eat on Sunday but by Monday she could not eat at all due to her throat hurting.

She had initially contacted a doctor who prescribed antibiotics but when Jorja’s condition worsened, she was seen by a doctor who said her heart rate was double what it should be and she was taken to hospital.

She said: ‘They realised how serious it was and I was still allowed to touch her, hold her hand, hug her and everything else.

‘They did allow me that. I’m at the point where I can’t comprehend that it’s happened.

‘I was with her the whole time. They tried to put her on a ventilator to give her body a chance to recover. Her heart rate didn’t stabilise. Her heart couldn’t take the strain.

‘They worked as well as I think they could medically but were unable to save her. She had the best of care, I know that they did everything they could to save her.’ 

The devastated mother now fears children are too ‘blasé’ about the virus – with parents assuming their children will simply recover. 

She continued: ‘She was going to have the jab on Tuesday. But because she tested positive on Saturday she was isolating. When her isolation period was over she was going to get it.

‘The day that she passed away was the day that she would have had it done.’

Jorja was the eldest of five children and had two sisters Julie, 12, and Daisie, four, and two younger brothers, Kallum, six, and Oscar who is just 18 months. 

Ms Halliday said: ‘It’s heart wrenching because your kids are always meant to outlive you, and that’s the one thing I can’t get over.

‘I like to think of myself as a thinker, I like to keep busy but I do take some time for myself and grieve with the children.’ 

She added: ‘When I’m on my own, when they’ve gone to bed, and when I get the reminders throughout the day, I burst into tears.

‘She was a loving girl and she had lots of friends. She was very active, she liked to go out and spend time with her friends and loved spending time with her brothers and sisters.

‘Growing up she turned into a beautiful young lady, always wanting to help others, always there for everybody when they needed them.’ 

Paying tribute to Jorja, her grandmother Julia Halliday, 62, said: ‘She was everything.’ 

Her martial arts teacher, Badr Bahaj, said she was a ‘role model’ to many of the other children at her training school, the AG Martial Arts centre in Portsmouth.

He said: ‘All the kids knew her and loved her and she was a role model to so many. It’s a shame and absolutely gutting. 

The 15-year-old (pictured with her sibling) died just four days after receiving her PCR test results

The 15-year-old (pictured with her sibling) died just four days after receiving her PCR test results

The 15-year-old (pictured with her sibling) died just four days after receiving her PCR test results

The schoolgirl was the eldest of five children and had two sisters Julie, 12, and Daisie, four, and two younger brothers, Kallum, six, and Oscar who is just 18 months

The schoolgirl was the eldest of five children and had two sisters Julie, 12, and Daisie, four, and two younger brothers, Kallum, six, and Oscar who is just 18 months

The schoolgirl was the eldest of five children and had two sisters Julie, 12, and Daisie, four, and two younger brothers, Kallum, six, and Oscar who is just 18 months

Jorja was working towards her GCSEs at The Portsmouth Academy in Hampshire

Jorja was working towards her GCSEs at The Portsmouth Academy in Hampshire

Jorja was working towards her GCSEs at The Portsmouth Academy in Hampshire

‘Jorja was one of the children that really did develop and thrive in our club.

‘She wanted to teach it when she was older. She also had a passion for learning and martial arts was no exception. It’s devastating, it’s going to break so many hearts.

‘She’s someone we’ll never forget. She’s one of the star students.’

Before her passing, Jorja was working towards her GCSEs at The Portsmouth Academy in Hampshire. 

What is the risk to children if they catch Covid?

Most children who become infected with the virus have no symptoms, or mild symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue, and a cough. 

However children with underlying health conditions may be at an increased risk of a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome  can lead to life-threatening problems with the heart and other organs.

This year, researchers found children face an ‘extremely low’ one in 500,000 risk of dying from the coronavirus. 

The studies were led by researchers at University College London, the University of York and the University of Liverpool.

One of the study’s showed the coronavirus contributed to 0.8 per cent of the 3,105 deaths in children from all causes in the first year of the pandemic.

They found the under-18s who died were more likely to be teenagers than younger children, showing that the risk from the virus increases with age. 

Higher proportions of Asian and black children died from the virus but these deaths were ‘still extremely rare’, they said. 

A second study found that 251 young people in England were admitted to intensive care with Covid from March 2020 to February this year, which equates to around a one in 50,000 risk. 

Of these patients, 91 per cent had one or more underlying health conditions. 

A third study, which was led by Dr Rachel Harwood at the University of Liverpool, supported the findings of the other papers.    

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The school principal, Rachel Grey, said: ‘We are desperately sad about the tragic death of one of our much-loved students. At this incredibly sad time, our hearts go out to her family, whom Jorja loved dearly.

‘Jorja was a kind-hearted, principled and passionate young person who was enormously popular among her peers in Year 11 and across the whole school.

‘She was, indeed, a friend to us all. She stood up for community values and was an excellent student, especially talented in art.

‘Our school community is united in our grief and in deep shock.

‘We are pulling together during this very difficult time, including providing our students with all the support they need, including through our specialist pastoral teams.’   

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and it is usually triggered by a virus.

Some of the most common infections which cause myocarditis, are those called adenovirus and Coxsackie B. 

The inflammation has also been linked to the Pfizer and Moderna jabs but the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said cases are ‘extremely rare’. 

The most common symptoms of the condition include chest pain, a fever, a fast heartbeat, tiredness and shortness of breath. 

In July, studies led by researchers at University College London, the University of York and the University of Liverpool found children face an ‘extremely low’ one in 500,000 risk of dying from the coronavirus 

Young people with pre-existing medical conditions have a higher chance of becoming seriously ill from the virus but the scientists said this risk is no higher then the risk from flu. 

Researchers said their findings – which were published in three separate papers – will help inform vaccine and shielding policy for under-18s. 

One of the studies is the first to determine the number of children who died from Covid rather than with the virus. It concluded that the virus killed 25 children in England.

During the same period, 124 children died from suicide, while 268 died from trauma, showing that Covid ‘is rarely fatal’ in children, the researchers said.  

They found the under-18s who died were more likely to be teenagers than younger children, showing that the risk from the virus increases with age.

Higher proportions of Asian and black children died from the virus but these deaths were ‘still extremely rare’, they said.  

A second study found that 251 young people in England were admitted to intensive care with Covid from March 2020 to February this year, which equates to around a one in 50,000 risk.

Of these patients, 91 per cent had one or more underlying health conditions.

A third study, which was led by Dr Rachel Harwood at the University of Liverpool, supported the findings of the other papers. 

Earlier this month ministers confirmed plans to vaccinate all children over 12 across the UK.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed the plans to offer a single Pfizer jab to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds during a speech to the House of Commons. 

Mr Zahawi also reiterated the safety of the vaccine for children, saying the decision to offer the jab to 12 to 15-year-olds had followed advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). 

However, amid fears the policy could lead to family arguments, he told MPs: ‘Whatever decision is made, they (children) must be supported. No-one should be stigmatised, no one should be bullied for making a decision.’ 

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a Tweet: ‘I have accepted the unanimous recommendation from the UK Chief Medical Officers to offer vaccination to those aged 12 to 15.

‘This will protect young people from catching Covid-19, reduce transmission in schools and help keep pupils in the classroom.’

The decision came as the teachers’ union NAHT demanded urgent reassurance medics will be responsible for concerns about consent and vaccination rather than it being left to schools, which could lead to tension with parents.

Children’s rights campaign group UsforThem said it needed a ‘cast-iron guarantee’ from the Government that all parents would get the final say on whether their child was vaccinated.

It came as Professor Whitty revealed that children would be able to override their parents’ decision if they pass a ‘competence assessment’ by the medical professional charged with administering the vaccine. 

The scientific community has been split over vaccinating healthy children against Covid because the virus poses such a low risk to them. 

No10’s own advisory panel said this month that immunising healthy under-16s would only provide ‘marginal’ benefit to their health, and not enough to recommend a mass rollout. 

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of Covid-19 Immunisation for the JCVI, said: ‘Children aged 12 to 15-years-old with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered Covid-19 vaccination. 

‘The range of underlying health conditions that apply has recently been expanded. 

For otherwise healthy 12 to 15-year-old children, their risk of severe Covid-19 disease is small and therefore the potential for benefit from COVID-19 vaccination is also small. 

‘The JCVI’s view is that overall, the health benefits from Covid-19 vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years are marginally greater than the potential harms. 

‘Taking a precautionary approach, this margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal COVID-19 vaccination for this age group at this time. The committee will continue to review safety data as they emerge.’

Ministers extend vaccine rollout to 12 to 15-year-olds as JCVI says the health benefits from vaccination are ‘marginally greater than the potential known harms’

This month ministers confirmed plans to vaccinate all children over 12 across the UK from next week.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed the plans to offer a single Pfizer jab to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds during a speech to the House of Commons. 

Mr Zahawi also reiterated the safety of the vaccine for children, saying the decision to offer the jab to 12 to 15-year-olds had followed advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). 

Professor Whitty also revealed that children will be able to override their parents’ decision if they pass a ‘competence assessment’ by the medical professional charged with administering the vaccine. 

The scientific community has been split over vaccinating healthy children against Covid because the virus poses such a low risk to them. No10’s own advisory panel said this month that immunising healthy under-16s would only provide ‘marginal’ benefit to their health, and not enough to recommend a mass rollout.

The decision was left with Professor Whitty and chief medical officers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who looked at the wider benefits to society, including keeping classrooms open. 

An assessment by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms. 

But they said the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15-year-olds at this time.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 Immunisation for the JCVI, said: ‘Children aged 12 to 15 years old with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered COVID-19 vaccination. 

‘The range of underlying health conditions that apply has recently been expanded. 

For otherwise healthy 12 to 15 year old children, their risk of severe COVID-19 disease is small and therefore the potential for benefit from COVID-19 vaccination is also small. 

‘The JCVI’s view is that overall, the health benefits from COVID-19 vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years are marginally greater than the potential harms. 

‘Taking a precautionary approach, this margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal COVID-19 vaccination for this age group at this time. The committee will continue to review safety data as they emerge.’

 

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