The NHS has started to roll out the COVID-19 jab to school children aged 12 to 15, as part of the biggest vaccination drive in health service history.
Almost three million children in this age group are eligible for one dose of the Pfizer vaccine following the government’s acceptance of the UK Chief Medical Officers’ recommendation.
Jabs will start in hundreds of schools across the country this week with the NHS vaccination programme rolling out to others in the coming weeks.
Like the flu and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, COVID-19 jabs will be delivered by local school age immunisation services (SAIS) who will work closely with schools to identify all eligible children.
In line with standard practice for vaccinations in schools, consent letters are being sent out to parents and guardians with information on the COVID-19 vaccination.
Families do not need to contact the NHS to arrange their child’s vaccine, schools and providers will be in touch.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and Deputy Lead for the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme, said:
There are around 60 school age immunisation services across the country with teams made up of clinical staff such as paediatric nurses and school nurses.
Staff are working hard to offer vaccinations to all children in this age group in the majority of schools before October half term.
Children aged 12 to 15 with health conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID, as well as those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed, are already being invited for a lifesaving COVID jab and are eligible for two doses of Pfizer.
More than 77 million vaccinations have been delivered since the NHS in England made history when Margaret Keenan received the first jab outside of a clinical trial in Coventry, in December 2020.
Last week was another landmark moment for the NHS as staff and volunteers pulled out all the stops to launch the autumn booster programme, with the first booster jabs in arms less than 48 hours after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) set out new guidance.
Jack Lane, 14, was one of the first to be vaccinated in England, as part of the extended rollout. After having his vaccine in Leigh-On-Sea this morning Jack said:
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:
Alternative arrangements will be made to ensure those not in school are vaccinated, including those who are home schooled or in secure services.
The largest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history continues, with more than 40 million people now having had at least one dose, and well over 36 million people fully vaccinated against COVID having received two doses.
The NHS has been planning for the roll out to all healthy 12 to 15 year olds so that staff could extend its rollout as quickly as possible in line with advice.
The school aged flu vaccine has been extended this year so that as well as children in primary school and year 7, it will now be offered to those in years 8 to 11, meaning that most secondary school aged children will be eligible for both the flu and COVID-19 vaccine this winter, to protect themselves and those around them.
Children and young people in this new cohort will be offered a single dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said:
Consent process for vaccinating 12 to 15s:
- Consent will follow existing guidance contained within the Green Book and will be led by the School Age Immunisation Service in line with other school immunisation programmes.
- Schools and providers will seek consent from parents or legal guardians for vaccinating 12-15s, but if the situation arises where a child wants to get the vaccine without parental consent, the child and parent will be invited for a joint discussion with the clinician or healthcare professional, who can make a decision about whether the child is legally competent to make decisions about their healthcare.
- If a child is not competent to give consent for themselves, consent should be sought from a person with parental responsibility.
- School Aged Immunisation Service providers are responsible for school age children so will make provision for children not in regular school.