Covid vaccine roll-out begins for 12-15-year-olds

The Berkshire School-aged Immunisations Team will visit schools to give vaccines.
Photo of school students from Unsplash

Covid vaccinations for Reading school children aged 12-15 are getting underway after the government decided to offer this group a single dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine.

The vaccinations will be given by NHS nurses and healthcare assistants who visit schools. They will try and give the flu vaccine, given as a nasal spray, at the same time, subject to supplies being available.

Parents and children are encouraged to read leaflets about the Covid vaccine, that are being sent to them in advance, to help them make a joint decision about whether the young person will have the vaccine. Parents are then asked to sign an electronic consent form.

Consent will also be asked for the flu vaccine, which is being offered to all students in years 7-11 at secondary school.

If a consent form isn’t signed, the NHS immunisation team will try and seek the parents’ verbal consent on the day of vaccination, or otherwise check if the student is mature enough to consent themselves.

What do the experts advise?

  • The UK’s chief medical officers recommend vaccination for healthy children in this age group, on public health grounds, because they believe it will reduce disruption to education. Such disruption earlier in the pandemic had had a ‘massive impact’ on the welfare and mental health of many children.
  • The JCVI, the committee that advises government on vaccinations, said there was a ‘marginal’ health benefit for an individual young person aged 12-15 of having the Covid vaccine but not enough to recommend widespread vaccination.
  • Public Health England says in a leaflet addressed to young people says there have been very rare reports of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) as a vaccine side effect. ‘Most of these cases have been in younger men and usually a few days after the second vaccination. Most people recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments.’
  • The MHRA, the body that approves medicines for use, has licensed Pfizer and Moderna in the UK as safe to be used in two doses for 12-15-year-olds.

Students should not get the vaccine if they are self-isolating, waiting for a COVID-19 test or within 4 weeks of having a positive COVID-19 test.

The government hopes to carry out the school-based immunisations by the October half-term.

A decision on whether to offer a second dose to healthy 12-15-year-olds is not expected to be made until next Spring when more information is available from studies.

However, two doses have already been recommended for 12-15-year-olds with underlying conditions.

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