Coronavirus jabs rolled out for 12 to 15-year-olds
By Aine Fox, PA
Coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out to children aged between 12 and 15, with three million youngsters eligible across the UK.
The programme is expected to be delivered primarily within schools, and guidance has been issued to headteachers to contact police if they believe protests could be held outside their buildings.
Children will be offered jabs at some schools in England from Monday.
The rollout for 12 to 15-year-olds is also beginning in Scotland and Wales this week.
Young people in this age bracket in Scotland can go to drop-in clinics or wait for a letter offering them a scheduled appointment.
Jabs for children in Wales will be carried out at mass vaccination centres and some school settings.
In Northern Ireland, the head of the region’s vaccination programme said jabs are likely to be offered to children aged 12 to 15 in schools from October.
Last week, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it was aware some schools have been receiving campaign letters and emails with “misinformation” about the vaccine programme.
Its guidance stated: “In the event of a protest or disruptive activity outside a school, or if schools know a protest is planned, they should alert the SAIS (School Age Immunisation Service) provider, local authority and police contacts to discuss the best way to manage the situation.”
Heads and teachers have also been advised “not to engage directly” with misinformation campaigns about the vaccine, but should “acknowledge receipt of concerns” and “refer to the latest scientific guidance on the issue” if necessary.
An expert advising on jabs urged parents to be tolerant of one another when it comes to deciding whether to have their children vaccinated against coronavirus.
Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics and member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the decision on whether to jab 12 to 15-year-olds is not black and white, adding that while it is not “essential” for them to have a coronavirus vaccine, it is also “perfectly sensible” for them to do so.
The JCVI decided not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds on health grounds alone, but they suggested that wider issues, such as disruption to education, should be taken into consideration and examined by the UK’s four chief medical officers.
Those health chiefs subsequently said a single dose of Pfizer for people in this age group will significantly reduce the chance of a young person getting Covid and passing the virus on.
Prof Finn, speaking at the weekend on BBC Breakfast, said the reason the process for deciding whether to vaccinate children of this age has been “convoluted and complex” is because there “isn’t a completely clear, straightforward answer”.
But he added that people should not become too “agonised” about it because the risks on either side “are not that high”, explaining that children of this age are not at great risk from Covid, nor at great risk from the vaccine.
Parental consent will not be needed if a child is considered competent to make a decision by themselves, but England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has said for the “great majority of cases, children and their parents come to the same decision”.
It comes as booster jab invites are being sent out to 1.5 million people in England this week in what Health Secretary Sajid Javid said was an effort to “strengthen the wall of defence” against coronavirus created by the vaccines.