The NHS will start vaccinating children aged 5-11 today, as the biggest and most successful vaccination drive in health service history moves to the next phase.
Almost five million children in this age group are eligible for two doses of the vaccine following updated JCVI guidance, which recommended children can benefit from non-urgent offer of the vaccine.
With some schools having already broken up for the Easter break, hundreds of sites will be providing vaccinations from today with more sites coming online throughout the week.
The majority of vaccines for 5 to 11 year olds will take place 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.
There are also convenient vaccine walk-ins across the country which families can find through the NHS grab a jab website.
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.
Since the NHS National Booking System opened for families of 5 to 11 year olds to book a COVID vaccine for their child on Saturday, 37,000 have already booked an appointment.
The NHS will also be sending invites over the next few weeks to let parents and guardians know they can now book in for a vaccine and some people will be invited by their GP teams.
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: “NHS staff continue to work hard across the country to deliver the COVID vaccine to all eligible groups and this group of 5 to 11s are the latest to start receiving theirs, helping to protect against potential future waves of COVID.
“Local vaccine sites are making it as easy as possible for families, and a less daunting experience for youngsters, by offering things like games and therapy dogs, and it’s great to see lots of 5 to 11s already booked in.
“The vaccine is safe and effective – my 10-year old daughter will be getting hers this week – and I’d encourage all parents to read the information and consider booking their child in for a vaccination at the earliest opportunity.”
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.