More than 45,000 children aged 12 to 15 in Swindon and the surrounding region are to be offered the coronavirus vaccine.
England’s Chief Medical Officers, led by Prof Chris Whitty, announced the new national vaccination drive earlier this week, and it is expected that the first local vaccinations will be given in the coming days.
Children will need to have the consent of their parents to receive the vaccine, which will be administered by teams from Virgin Care’s Immunisation Service team at all schools across the region.
Additionally, children will be able to receive their flu vaccine, which is given in the form of a nasal spray, at the same time as their coronavirus jab.
Gill May, Director of Nursing and Quality with Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We have been expecting this announcement for some time and, in readiness, have been working closely with our colleagues at Virgin Care to plan this next phase of the vaccination programme.
“Virgin will visit all schools across the region over the coming weeks, and will work with both teaching staff and parents to ensure the process of offering the vaccine to as many eligible young people as possible is carried out in a safe and timely manner.
“Since December, more than 1.3 million covid-19 vaccines have been given out across our region, and we know that in doing so we have helped to save countless lives and reduce the spread of infection.
“Aside from offering protection against coronavirus, giving the vaccine to this age group will help to stop our young people’s time at school from being disrupted, which in turn will support long-term wellbeing and mental health.”
Val Scrase, Managing Director of Virgin Care in BSW, said: “We already work with local schools to deliver the very successful school immunisation programme within schools safely and efficiently, and we’ll be contacting parents directly via their school in the coming days.
“As with all vaccines, ensuring proper consent from parent and child is very important, and so we’ll be continuing to use our tried-and-tested electronic consent system, allowing parents to make an informed decision confident in the knowledge our vaccination team has their decision available on the day and will act accordingly.”
The vaccination team will not administer a vaccine where there is any disagreement between the child and parent around consent, nor will the team vaccinate if both parent and child have refused consent.
Teams will contact any parents and children who are undecided for a conversation, and, if appropriate, arrange a catch-up vaccination appointment.
Elsewhere, it has been announced that booster vaccines are to be made available for care home residents, health and social care workers, people aged over 50, those aged 16 to 49 with underlying health conditions, adult carers and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
People eligible for a booster vaccination will be contacted directly by the NHS approximately six months after their last Covid-19 vaccine was given, with those who received their second dose early at four weeks being called first.
Coronavirus vaccines are still available for any person in need of a first or second dose, with many vaccination clinics across the region offering jabs on a walk-in basis.