Secondary-age pupils eligible for the Covid jab will be able to receive their jab at vaccination centres from half-term, the NHS has confirmed.
The slow rollout of vaccinations in schools has been criticised by experts, who have long called for the action to be taken amid fear of rising infection rates.
NHS England’s chief executive Amanda Pritchard told MPs this morning that under 16s will be able to arrange a vaccination through the national booking service.
Addressing the Health and Social Care Committee, she said: “To make the most of half-term, we will be opening the national booking service for young people – 12 to 15-year-olds – to have their Covid vaccinations at existing vaccination centres.”
The NHS boss said there would be a big push to offer additional capacity for kids for the next “two weeks in particular”.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the move will offer families greater flexibility and added: “I think it is important that anyone who is invited as eligible for a vaccine, including young people, that they do come forward and take up that offer.”
The NHS said the centres will be accessible for children after half-term too, but vaccinations will still be run in schools. Youngsters will have to book an appointment to get jabbed at a vaccination centre.
School rollout lagged behind need
Since September 20, school sites have been used to vaccinate pupils aged between 12 and 15-years-old.
The jabs are performed by the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS), but the rollout has faced numerous delays.
Schools Week revealed both SAIS staff and unions had raised serious concerns over teams’ capacity to carry out the vaccination.
Furthermore, pupils who test positive for Covid must wait 28 days before they can receive the vaccination.
Latest attendance data from the Department for Education estimates 209,000 pupils – 2.6 per cent of the population – were absent for Covid related reasons on October 14.
Last week a survey from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) revealed that 42 per cent of schools are not scheduled to host vaccinations before the target date of the October half-term break.
The survey, which had over 500 responses, also found one in four schools said the scheduled date for Covid vaccinations had been delayed for all or some students
Scotland has vaccinated triple the proportion of pupils
According to national statistics as of Sunday, 15 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds in England have received a Covid job.
Scotland, which started jabbing under 16s at the same time as England but offers them in walk-in centres, has now vaccinated 47.4 per cent of children in that age group.