Ministers told to beef up waning pupil vaccination rates

Calls come as new data shows poorer pupils are the least likely to be vaccinated

Calls come as new data shows poorer pupils are the least likely to be vaccinated

Vaccination rates for 12 to 15-year-olds are well below their peak despite extra cash to boost rollout, with calls for ministers to “redouble their efforts” to drive-up rates.

Almost 33,000 pupils got their first jab on October 20 last year. However, daily rates for the seven days up to January 30 averaged just 3,500.

The Labour Party is demanding the government “redouble its efforts”, but new figures suggest factors such as ethnicity and class are key drivers behind uptake.

Data also shows that the roll-out of second doses is picking up pace (see graph below).

All secondary schools have been offered on-site vaccinations and most have been visited or have a visit planned.

But almost half (46 per cent) of 12 to 15-year-olds are yet to get their first jab.

Young people who test positive for Covid must wait 12 weeks before vaccination – meaning hundreds of thousands of pupils could still be waiting to become eligible.

The NHS is planning a “mop-up programme” to visit schools and inoculate pupils who were unable to get vaccinated previously.

Poorer pupils least likely to get jabbed

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week revealed poorer pupils are “much less likely to be vaccinated”.

It found that just over a third of pupils (36.1 per cent) had been vaccinated in the most deprived areas of England.

This is about half the rate of pupils in the least deprived areas, where 70.3 per cent have had the jab.

Schools where more than half their intake are eligible for free school meals had an average vaccination rate of 29.2 per cent, compared with 73.2 per cent for schools with the least FSM pupils.

Stephen Morgan

Stephen Morgan, the shadow schools minister, warned that vaccinations were “key to keeping children in class learning together” and the government “must redouble its efforts to drive-up jab rates”.

Department for Education attendance data estimated that 415,000 pupils and 15 per cent of teachers were absent on January 20 due to Covid.

The government announced £8 million last week for schools to support in-school vaccination. Jabs are also available through local centres.

All schools will receive £1,000 each, plus £1.14 per eligible pupil. It means the largest schools could get £2,500.

Schools that have no vaccination visits planned should spend the cash on distributing vaccination materials, signposting out-of-school sites and hosting a professional-led Q&A for parents.

Ethnicity also driving factor

The ONS found pupils who spoke English as an additional language were “much less likely” to have been vaccinated – 38.2 per cent compared with 55.5 per cent.

Uptake also varied significantly among ethnic groups. As of January 9, black Caribbean and Gypsy and Roma pupils were the least likely to be vaccinated at 12.4 per cent each.

Meanwhile Chinese and Indian pupils were the most likely to have had at least one dose, at 75.5 and 65.7 per cent respectively.

The highest vaccination rates for 12 to 15-year-olds were in Hampshire, where 71.3 per cent of the age group have received their first jab. Hackney, at 25.9 per cent, had the lowest rate.

Local authorities with the lowest uptake pointed to high levels of ethnic diversity, higher levels of deprivation and the 12-week wait as contributing factors.

Manchester City Council said some children waited almost 12 weeks for a jab after testing positive, only to be reinfected again – delaying vaccination by up to six months.

How many more pupils want the jab?

The lower take-up rate could be because all the youngsters who want a jab have had it.

Data from the OxWell Student Survey of 27,859 pupils aged between 9 and 18, published in September, found 50 per cent were willing to be vaccinated.

But a new ONS survey suggests there is still headway to be made. The survey of 2,000 12 to 18-year-olds found 70 per cent had already been vaccinated.

Of those who had not received a jab, 52 per cent of pupils said they were “very” or “fairly likely” to get a vaccine if offered this winter.

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