Therapy dog sessions and a mini toy town help kids grab a jab at half term

A therapy dog called Ruby and a mini toy town full of fun to help keep young people calm while they get their jabs are just some of the attractions lined up by NHS staff and volunteers to get children vaccinated during half term.

As many schools are on half term this week, the NHS is sending invites to parents of more than a million 12 to 15-year-olds reminding them to come forward for their jab, with over 750,000 appointments available for this age group until 27 February, while the NHS is also jabbing five to 11-year-olds who are most at risk.

Ruby, the eight-year-old Briard who has worked in hospitals as a therapy dog for seven years, has been helping ease any nerves for teens in the Midlands with regular clinics in Nottingham this week.

Meanwhile in the Black Country, the local trust is running a ‘vaccination street’, or mini toy town, where at-risk five to 11-year-olds can take part in a range of fun games on their way to getting jabbed, including hop-scotch and a treasure hunt, with a game of snakes and ladders while they wait for 15 minutes post-jab.

Local NHS services in Herts Valley are running vaccination sessions for 12 to 18-year olds who may be anxious about the jab, with volunteer vaccinators trained in effective relaxation techniques on hand to support them through the vaccination process.

Today, England’s top GP thanked those 12 to 15-year-olds who have already come forward in half-term with more than 55,000 young people aged 12 to 17 jabbed in the first four days.

Dr Nikki Kanani reminded families of the importance of getting protected as they go back to school and ahead of summer, with half term the ‘perfect opportunity’ for young people to get jabbed.

Meanwhile, there is a ‘jab cab’ available at a community health day at the Slade Green Foodbank helping people access various forms of support, including access to the vaccine, in an area affected by some of the greatest health inequalities in Bexley.

In the north west, vaccine buses are joining the vaccination effort with one parked outside the Dubai-inspired Imperial Banquet Hall in Preston as well as in locations across Bolton and Liverpool.

NHS staff continue to provide vaccines in convenient sites, in the heart of peoples’ communities with the Masjid E Sajedeen Mosque in Blackburn also taking part.

Since the biggest and fastest vaccination rollout in NHS history expanded to children and young people, the NHS has delivered over 2.2 million vaccinations to people aged 12 to 15, including over 1.5 million first doses –  almost three out of five children in this age group.

Young people and their families can book in online at a convenient vaccination centre via the national booking service or visit their nearest walk-in finder.

GP and Deputy Lead of the NHS Vaccination Programme, Dr Nikki Kanani, said: “This half-term offers the perfect opportunity to get your child protected, with a range of initiatives up and down the country, that are helping children feel at ease when getting their vaccine.

“From furry friends like Ruby, the much loved therapy dog, the sheep at a pop-up petting zoo and a mini toy town in the midlands – the NHS is doing everything it can to get your loved ones protected.

“While infection rates remain high across these age groups, getting vaccinated is the best course of protection against the virus and with fantastic NHS staff vaccinating at fun family days out there is no need to delay getting their first or second dose if eligible.

“Latest data shows that the NHS booster campaign has helped prevent over 100,000 hospitalisations since mid-December, so the evidence  is clear, vaccines work and can help to protect you and your loved ones from serious illness”.

Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said: “Vaccines remain one of our best lines of defence as we learn to live with COVID-19, so I am delighted to see these initiatives from local NHS teams encouraging eligible youngsters to grab their jab during half term.

“I am grateful to staff and volunteers for working tirelessly to help parents and children come forward for their jabs and ease any anxieties they may have.

“Parents – this is a great opportunity to get your loved ones protected before kids go back to school and ahead of the summer”.

In addition to the out-of-school offer where jabs can be booked through the national booking service or people can visit their nearest walk-in centre, local school aged immunisation services continue roll out in schools.

The most recent ONS data shows that rates of COVID infections among those in school years 7 to 11 remains high, with around one in 11 (8.7%) testing positive in the week to 5 February.

Clinically at-risk 12 to 15-year-olds or those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed are also entitled to their 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, patient information is sent out to parents and guardians with information on the COVID-19 vaccination.

Parents and guardians are asked to attend vaccination sites with their children and are asked to read the patient information in advance of arriving for their appointment.

Young people who have had COVID-19 must wait 12 weeks until they can be vaccinated, in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance.

Since the NHS in England made history by delivering the first COVID-19 vaccination outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan in December 2020, hard-working staff and volunteers have delivered more than 116 million vaccine doses, including more than 31 million boosters.