Teachers are being urged by the NHS to get their third Covid jab during the Christmas break – as schools are given “flexibility” over January returns to allow for on-site testing.
Prime minister Boris Johnson staged a press conference this afternoon after a record 78,610 daily Covid cases were confirmed in the UK amid the Omicron variant surge.
He encouraged every eligible person to “get boosted now” and revealed the doubling rate of Omicron is under two days in some areas.
During the conference, teachers were highlighted as a key group to get the vaccination booster.
Dr Nikki Kanani of NHS England said: “We are asking teachers to come forward during the school holidays to get protected before school starts again.
“We have got pop-ups, we have got mobile units, we’re working with community and faith leaders to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to get this protection. So please come forward.”
A recent Teacher Tapp survey of over 7,000 teachers revealed 62 per cent had received two vaccine doses, while a further 36 per cent had received a third.
The push for booster jabs comes after Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, warned earlier today that the Omicron variant is “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic”.
Second jab booking for 12- to 15-year-olds
The Prime Minister also revealed that 12- to 15-year-olds will be able to book appointments for their second jab from Monday.
This follows the announcement that the second dose of Covid jabs for that age group will begin in schools from January 10.
The government states that every secondary school will receive a second-dose session by February half-tern.
Yet latest NHS data show less than half of the age-group have received their first jab. Just 45.3 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds had received the vaccine as of yesterday.
‘Flexibility for school upon January return
Elsewhere education minister Alex Burghart said earlier today secondary schools will receive a “small amount of flexibility” to conduct on-site testing in January.
The government initially told schools in November that they were required to conduct on-site Covid testing of pupils upon their return from the Christmas break.
Schools were given less than three days to order “sufficient” test kits in time for deliveries to arrive.
Education select committee chair Robert Halfon raised an urgent question in the House of Commons today, asking why there was a “nationwide campaign for an army of NHS volunteers, but not for education?”.
“Why is a similar army for retired teachers or Ofsted inspectors not being recruited to support schools struggling with staffing requirements?”
He added: “Despite government assurances, it seems to me we are moving sadly towards de facto school closures.”
But Burghart said schools would be offered a “small amount of flexibility for the time in which schools can go back to make sure this testing can take place”.
During similar on-site testing in September, schools introduced staggered starts for different year groups to allow for testing to take place.
Examples seen by Schools Week show schools splitting the return of pupils over the first two days of the January term.