Covid vaccines for children: what schools need to know

The government has published guidance today on how the vaccine roll-out in schools for 12- to 15-year-olds will work.

Here’s your trusty Schools Week guide on what you need to know.

Schools won’t run jabs roll-out …

As with normal school vaccinations, the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS) will plan the roll-out, administer the jabs and be legally responsible for the delivery.

Jabs will start “from the beginning” of this term. Schools will be contacted by their SAIS provider to agree a date and the best approach for vaccination.

Children who are 12 and over on the day SAIS visit will be offered a jab.

Children who miss this because they turn 12 after the visit, were ill or who change their minds will get a follow-up offer. This is expected to be delivered outside of school to minimise disruption.

… but will play a role in communication

Schools will have three primary roles – similar to other vaccine programmes:

  • Provide information to their SAIS provider on which children on their roll are eligible for the vaccine
  • Share the information leaflet, consent form and invitation letter supplied by the SAIS team with parents and children
  • Provide the space within school, and the time away from the timetable, to enable vaccinations to take place

Schools have ‘no role’ in consent rows

Consent will be sought by the vaccination team, and parents will be provided a contact number for the SAIS in case of any queries.

All parents are asked for consent, and will usually make the decision jointly with their children.

In secondary schools, some older children may be “sufficiently mature to provide their own consent” (this is known as “Gillick Competence” and will be assessed by the vaccine team).

In such a case, “every effort will be made to contact the parent to seek their verbal consent.”

The guidance states schools have “no role in this process”. They are also not responsible for “mediating between parents and children who may disagree about whether or not to consent.”

“This is the role of registered nurses in the SAIS, who have extensive experience and the expertise to handle these issues and are professionally accountable for their decisions.”

A parent cannot overrule the decision of a Gillick competent child.

Legal accountability does not sit with schools

Schools Week revealed this week how campaign groups had issued legal letters threatening headteachers with jail or fines if they offer vaccines.

However the guidance makes clear that “legal accountability for offering COVID-19 vaccines to children and young people sits with the SAIS and not with the school.”

Schools should get advice on security planning

Schools are advised to get in touch with the SAIS team “at the first opportunity to understand what security planning they have in place, and what if any actions they recommend you carry out ahead of vaccinations in your school”.

Schools should already have a security policy, based on a security risk assessment.

In the event of a protest or planned disruption at a school, leaders should alert the vaccine team, council and police to “discuss the best way to manage the situation”.

‘Don’t engage with fake news’

The government said it is “aware some schools have received letters or emails which feature false or misleading information (misinformation) about the safety, efficacy and purpose of the COVID-19 vaccination programme”.

Headteachers and teachers are advised:

  1. Not to engage directly: misinformation narratives and tactics flourish when they are responded to.
  2. Acknowledge receipt: if a response is needed, simply acknowledge receipt of concerns.
  3. If there is a need to, refer to the latest scientific guidance on the issue. Some helpful links to trusted sources include:

Children can’t book through jabs website

Booking via the National Booking Service is not presently planned for 12 to 15-year-old children.

Walk-ins from this age group are also not allowed. School staff are also not allowed to get jabbed under this part of the programme.

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  1. Ginny Crellin

    I’m concerned by the mention of Gillick competence in this article. Gillick competency should have no place in this article as the UK law has already judged that this does not apply in experimental treatments. Please correct this.

  2. Suzanne Vaughan, PhD

    The data that addresses the benefits and harms of the vaccine for children has been published by the government (1). The data show:
    – No child, vaccinated or unvaccinated, had severe covid symptoms
    – The safety study was based on only 1131 vaccinated children
    – 3 children had life-threatening reactions to the vaccine
    – The safety study only followed children for 1 month

    Based on this report, the risk of a child aged 12-15 being hospitalised due to covid = 0; risk of being hospitalised due to the vaccine = 1 in 1131.