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Unvaccinated adolescents have been the driving force behind a stubbornly persistent Delta surge in Britain, a potential warning sign for California if inoculation rates don’t improve considerably among this age group, health experts warn.

Dr. George Rutherford, a UC San Francisco epidemiologist and infectious-disease expert, said unvaccinated 10- to 14-year-olds are driving the pandemic in the United Kingdom, with case rates among these ages significantly higher than any other group.

Rutherford was citing data from a New York Times analysis, which said that in mid-October, school-age children in England were 15 times as likely to be infected with the coronavirus as 80-year-olds. The analysis noted that England ended mandatory mask-wearing in mid-July, and officials did not recommend vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds until mid-September, four months after they were available for those ages in the U.S.

The U.K.’s surge in coronavirus cases has been uneven — climbing rapidly from mid-June to mid-July, then decreasing sharply before yo-yoing into a second peak in mid-October. There have been some signs of waning since the middle of last month, but cases remain well above the pre-Delta levels.

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