COVID jab rollout for 12 to 15-year-olds to start in schools in England

As reported by BBC news, all children aged 12 to 15 in England will be offered one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID jab, vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said

Invitations for the jab will begin next week, the government said, and parental consent will be sought for the schools-based vaccination programme. It follows advice from the UK’s chief medical officers, who say the jab will help reduce disruption to education. A rollout is yet to be confirmed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Earlier on Monday, the UK’s four chief medical officers recommended the single dose for 12 to 15-year-olds – who are deemed at very low risk from the disease – saying factors such as disruption to education tipped the balance. Prof Chris Whitty, the lead CMO for the UK, said it was a “difficult decision” and should not be seen as a “silver bullet”. But he said it could be an “important and useful tool” in reducing school disruption in the coming months – and when combined with the marginal health benefit identified by vaccine advisory body the JCVI, it meant offering a COVID vaccine to all children was appropriate.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said some of the union’s members had already received letters from pressure groups threatening legal action if vaccination took place in schools. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme any advice to parents and children on the vaccine should come from health professionals rather than teachers to avoid any “unpleasantness” in schools. On Monday evening, Zahawi told the Commons: “We know vaccinations are our best defence against this virus.

“Our jabs have already prevented over 112,000 deaths, more than 143,000 hospitalisations and over 24m infections.

“They have built a vast wall of defence for the British people.”

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said he accepted the recommendation from the officers aimed at protecting young people from catching COVID, reducing transmission in schools and keeping pupils in the classroom.

“Our outstanding NHS stands ready to move forward with rolling out the vaccine to this group with the same sense of urgency we’ve had at every point in our vaccination programme,” he said.

Parents will be asked to give consent for the jab. But if a child and parent are of opposing views and the child is considered competent to decide, the child will have the final say. Children with health conditions and those living with clinically vulnerable people have already been told they can have the vaccine – and are being offered two doses. This accounts for around one in eight of the three million children in this age group.

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