Parents and carers of 5 to 11 years olds will be able to book a COVID vaccine for their children today, as the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history expands again.
The service will open at 7am for bookings with appointments available at hundreds of sites from Monday and more coming online throughout the week.
The NHS is making the vaccine available for all 5 to 11s following updated JCVI guidance, which recommended all children would benefit from a non-urgent offer of the vaccine, with almost five million now eligible.
NHS staff have already been vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 who have medical conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 or who live with someone with a weakened immune system, and more than three in five 12 to 15 year olds have also come forward for a jab.
Most appointments for this age group will be available at local vaccination centres or community pharmacies outside of school hours and are available to book through the online booking service or by calling 119.
The NHS will be adding more appointments throughout the week so anyone unable to get a convenient slot initially should keep trying.
There are also convenient vaccine walk-ins across the country which families can find through the NHS grab a jab website.
The NHS will also be sending invites to parents and guardians of eligible children throughout the next few weeks to let them know they can now book in for a vaccine and some people will be invited by their GP.
More than 119 million vaccinations, including more than 32 million boosters, 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.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, said: “From today, parents of almost five million 5- to 11-year-olds can book their little ones in for a vaccine, ensuring they get their first dose of protection and helping to protect against potential future waves of covid-19.
“Vaccines remain the best defence we have against the virus – my 13-year-old son has had his two vaccinations and I’ll be booking my 10-year old daughter in for hers at the earliest opportunity, and would encourage all parents to read the NHS information available and consider doing the same”.
Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary said: “From Monday, the NHS will be rolling out the non-urgent offer for COVID vaccines for all children aged 5 to 11 in England.
“Parents, if they want, can take up the offer for their children to increase protection against COVID as we learn to live with this virus.
“Children without underlying health conditions are at low risk of serious illness from COVID and the priority remains for the NHS to offer vaccines and Spring boosters to adults and vulnerable young people, as well as to catch up with other childhood immunisation programmes.”
The NHS has pulled out all the stops to make vaccinations as easy as possible for children, including a therapy dog called Ruby helping to ease nerves in Nottingham and a mini-toy town in the Black Country allowing children to do a treasure hunt and play hopscotch and snakes and ladders before and after their appointment.
Sites are also allowing for longer appointment times so that families can discuss their decisions, and ensure visits with children are as stress-free as possible.
Parents and guardians are being encouraged to read the patient and consent information in advance of booking their child’s appointment and will be asked to provide consent for their child’s vaccination on the day.
The JCVI has advised that all children aged between 5 to 11 will be offered two 10 microgram doses, a third of the strength given to all over the age of 12, of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty®) with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses (or 8 weeks for children who have medical conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 or who live with someone with a weakened immune system).
Families will be given a vaccination record card once their child has been vaccinated and are asked to keep this in a safe place. The vaccination record card provides the name of the vaccine, batch number and the date the vaccine was given.