Delays in the Covid-19 vaccination program for 12 to 15 year olds could postpone vaccinations into the Christmas period as local health teams target parents hesitant about vaccination with Zoom sessions and ‘cleaning’ clinics are planned to isolate students who are missing jabs in schools.
School leaders have called for more resources to accelerate the program, as it becomes clear that the government’s goal of completing the program mid-term will be missed.
Public health teams in Stockport and Oldham have informed schools that the Covid vaccination sessions will run until mid-November. Schools elsewhere, including in north London, Watford and Staffordshire, have been told they will not be visited by vaccination teams until next month. Other school leaders are still waiting for a date.
Yesterday, five education unions wrote to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi urging him to reintroduce school safety measures, including social distancing, bubbles and face masks in high schools.
Covid-19 cases are falling in almost all age groups in England except schoolchildren and their parents’ generation. More than 200,000 students were out of school for reasons related to Covid last week, up 67% from the previous week. The increase in Covid cases in schools has resulted in further restrictions in some areas. Cambridgeshire public health officials have called on schools to reinstate mask wearing and social distancing, while some schools in Kingston, London have staggered end times.
Some local NHS teams have asked students to isolate whether a sibling tested positive. Suffolk County Council has been accused of introducing ‘vaccine apartheid’ by telling parents that if the children have not been vaccinated they should stay home for up to a week if one of the brothers and sisters is positive. Vaccinated children would be allowed to continue attending school as usual if a sibling contracts Covid.
High transmission rates have affected vaccinations because students who test positive have to wait 28 days before they can be immunized. Vaccine “cleaning” clinics are now planned by local health teams to pick up children who do not receive their vaccine at school. They will also welcome children from 7 years old who will be 12 years old after the administration of the first wave. Local vaccination teams are at full capacity as they also have to administer the school flu vaccination program, which has been expanded this year to cover all students.
Geoff Baron, secretary general of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There is growing frustration among school leaders over delays in rolling out Covid vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds. We do not understand why the government has not put more emphasis on making this happen as quickly as possible.
“The main problems seem to be that the health care teams do not have enough staff to vaccinate so many students at a time and the demand for the vaccine has exceeded the supply. “
Meanwhile, local health councils and officials are hosting “immunization webinars” to persuade reluctant parents to consent to have their children loaded in school. Official participation rates have yet to be released, but health officials have expressed concern that if they follow the adult model, children in disadvantaged areas will be less likely to be vaccinated and therefore more likely to have their education interrupted.
Parents across the country, including the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Greenwich and Merton, and Leicestershire, are invited to webinars to share concerns with clinicians and vaccine professionals. In a Barnet council session last week attended by around 100 parents, health officials were asked whether children who have already had Covid and have natural immunity should still be bitten and why the UK has embarked on childhood immunizations when other countries have not. myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, and possible changes in girls’ menstrual cycles were also discussed. Some families have expressed concern that their refusal to give consent will not be respected.
Health officials reassured families that only students with “explicit parental consent” would receive the vaccine on school immunization days. They stated that “processes” are currently being designed to administer the jab to children who want it but do not have parental consent and are assessed as being able to understand the decision-making process and the implications for it. health – known as the “Gillick skill”.