Health teams will visit more than 800 secondary schools in England from this week to introduce the coronavirus vaccine to children aged 12 to 15.
Health Minister Sajid Javid said the vaccines would “help keep children in the classroom”. The NHS said more than 600,000 children had been vaccinated since the rollout was extended last month. About 163,000 people got an injection last week after the national reservation system was opened for those under 16.
Last month, the UK’s top medical officials recommended that children aged 12 to 15 be given a single dose of the COVID vaccine. The NHS began rolling it out in England on September 20.
Efforts to vaccinate pupils come as many return to the classroom from the half-term break as cases in England are still high. “Vaccines are safe and will help keep children in the classroom — I encourage everyone to apply for a shot to protect themselves and the people around them,” Javid said.
Alternatively, children can make an appointment through the national reservation system to visit the vaccination center. The NHS said about 140,000 children had scheduled appointments to book their vaccinations over the next few weeks.
Professor Adam Fane, a pediatrician and member of the UK’s JCVI Vaccine Expert Group, said vaccinating adolescents would “reduce the chance of disrupting education, which is really the biggest damage the pandemic has done to our children”.
But he told BBC Breakfast it would also increase the population’s overall levels of immunity, helping to limit the spread of the virus.
With the US Food and Drug Administration approving the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, Professor Finn said the UK and EU were likely to follow suit. But he said the decision about giving the vaccine to young children will depend on whether it is necessary at that moment in the pandemic.
Dr Niki Kanani, deputy head of the NHS’ COVID-19 Vaccine Programme, said efforts to vaccinate children aged 12-15 “will not stop”.
Dr Kinani, who also serves as a GP, added: “It is really important that we continue with the same enthusiasm if we want to ensure that children stay in class with fellow students this winter, and so I encourage all parents and guardians to go online and read the information about your child’s vaccination, so you can make an informed decision. “.
Students are also urged to take a coronavirus test before returning to school to reduce disruption to lessons. Since the end of September, there has been a rise in the number of daily confirmed cases.
Across the UK, another 41,278 positive cases were announced on Saturday, with the seven-day average still above 40,000. Most areas in England have more than 400 cases per 100,000 people.
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