A school-based Covid vaccination programme is to start next week, offering children aged 12-15 years old one dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine, ministers have confirmed.
The programme will be ‘supported’ by community pharmacies and GPs.
It comes after unanimous advice from the UK’s four chief medical officers which recommended the move.
The healthy 12-15 year olds will ‘primarily’ receive their Covid jab in their school, but there will also be alternative provision for those who are homeschooled, in secure services or in specialist mental health settings.
Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by vaccination healthcare staff, in line with existing school vaccination programmes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said. Invitations for vaccination will begin from next week.
Health secretary, Sajid Javid, said: ‘I have accepted the recommendation from the chief medical officers to expand vaccination to those aged 12 to 15 – protecting young people from catching Covid-19, reducing transmission in schools and keeping pupils in the classroom.
‘I am very grateful for the expert advice I have received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and UK chief medical officers.
‘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.’
It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that all 16–17-year-olds should be offered a Covid vaccine in August.
At the time, it said the JCVI would not recommend vaccinating under-16s without underlying conditions, but that it would ‘keep its position under review based on the latest data’.
The UK’s CMOs were also asked to review universal Covid vaccination for 12-15s.
In a letter to the four UK health ministers, sent yesterday (13 September), the CMOs said: ‘The view of the UK CMOs is that the additional likely benefits of reducing educational disruption, and the consequent reduction in public health harm from educational disruption, on balance provide sufficient extra advantage in addition to the marginal advantage at an individual level identified by the JCVI to recommend in favour of vaccinating this group.
‘They therefore recommend on public health grounds that Ministers extend the offer of universal vaccination with a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to all children and young people aged 12-15 not already covered by existing JCVI advice.’
It comes after the news that community pharmacy staff will not be included in the mandatory vaccine proposal.
A version of this story initially appeared on our sister title Healthcare Leader.