NHS teams are set to visit over 650 schools this week to deliver second COVID-19 vaccines, as the majority of young people return to school after the half term break.
Over 5,000 (5,136) more visits are planned before Easter as pupils become eligible, making it convenient for pupils aged 12 to 15 to get their second dose in school.
A report from the National Audit Office released on Friday found that the NHS vaccination programme has helped to save lives and reduce hospital admissions, meeting “stretching and unprecedented targets” – all while making effective use of public money.
Following an NHS half term push, more than 100,000 (106,610) 12 to 15s have received their second dose of protection over the last two weeks while families up and down the country made the most of their time off.
While school children have faced significant disruption to their education due to the pandemic, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – independent experts who advise on vaccinations – have advised a second COVID vaccination three months on from their first which offers the best protection against the virus for this age group, ensuring they are protected and helping to keep them in school.
Over the last fortnight, NHS initiatives to vaccinate young people have included the use of therapy dog, Ruby, to calm nerves in Nottingham, a pop-up petting zoo in Epsom as well as the option to get jabbed at a mini toy town in the Black Country.
Almost three quarters of a million young people have been double jabbed so far – three in five of those eligible – two months after the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history started to roll out second doses to 12 to 15s.
England’s top GP is reminding families of the various options available to book vaccines, including booking an appointment online, taking them to a local walk in centre or through the clinics provided in schools.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS Deputy Lead for the vaccination programme said: “As schools get ready for kids to return after half term breaks across the country, teams are also getting ready to host hundreds more vaccine clinics so that 12-15s can easily get protected.
“From petting zoos and therapy dogs to vaccinations at skate parks, NHS staff are doing all they can to support your young ones to get protected and it is thanks to their efforts that more than three in five eligible 12 to 15 year olds have now had both doses with thousands getting protected over half term.
“It is really quick and easy to get your dose of reassurance out of school, through an appointment booked online or at hundreds of walk-in sites across the country – my own 13-year-old son had his second dose earlier this year and it’s really given both of us that extra peace of mind”.
Almost 3,500 (3,485) schools have been visited already this term with more than 5,000 further visits planned as pupils become eligible three months on.
Maggie Throup, Vaccines Minister said: “Thanks to the tireless efforts of NHS staff and volunteers, nearly three quarters of a million children aged 12 to 15 have taken up the offer of a first and second dose of the vital COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s brilliant that local teams will be visiting over 650 more schools this week, making it easier than ever for pupils to get their second dose as they become eligible.
“Vaccines remain our first line of defence against the virus – getting jabbed is one of the best ways we can protect ourselves and our communities as we learn to live with COVID-19”.
NHS teams have been jabbing young people since they started rolling out first doses at the end of September – within 48 hours of the government accepting the UK chief medical officer’s recommendation to offer to these ages.
Children who have had COVID must wait 12 weeks after infection until they can be vaccinated, in line with JCVI guidance.
In January, it was announced that NHS England has given secondary schools £8 million of funding to support them in delivering the in-school vaccination programme.
Clinically at-risk 12 to 15 year-olds or those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed are also entitled to a booster three months after their two primary doses, with those who are severely immunosuppressed able to get their booster after a third primary dose.
In line with national guidance, consent letters are sent out to parents and guardians prior to the school clinics with information on the COVID-19 vaccination. Parents and guardians are asked to attend vaccination sites with their children if they are getting jabbed outside of school, and consent will be sought on the day.
More than 117 million jabs, including 31 million boosters, have been delivered since the NHS in England made history by delivering the first COVID-19 vaccination outside a clinical trial on 8 December 2020, to Maggie Keenan in Coventry.