Covid walk-in vaccine centres open to under 16s in England to boost uptake

Fewer than 10% of young teenagers have had a first Covid-19 vaccine dose in just over a third of local areas in England

School children in England will be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine at a walk-in centre under new plans to speed up the jab rollout for under 16s.

Take-up of first vaccine doses has been low with fewer than 10% of young teenagers jabbed in just over a third of local areas in England.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • First doses started to be rolled out to 3.2 million 12 to 15-year-olds across the country more than a month after the UK’s chief medical officers recommended extending the vaccine programme to nearly all of those in secondary school.
  • In some areas the rate of vaccine uptake is as low as 5%, while only 15 local authorities in England have managed to give a first jab to at least a quarter of 12- to 15-year-olds, data shows.
  • While uptake has been low across England, the picture is very different in Scotland, where more than half of children in local areas have now had a vaccine dose.
  • Rules over where the jabs will be administered will change in a bid to boost numbers in England, with walk-in centres opened up to youngsters for the first time.
  • The original plan was for all the vaccines to be administered in schools, in the same way as the annual flu jab, with the aim of offering a dose to all those eligible by half-term.

What’s been said?

Headteachers’ unions called for vaccines to be offered to pupils in walk-in centres, as well as school, after figures revealed the scale of the low take-up of the Covid-19 jab among the cohort.

Unions expressed concerns that 12 to 15-year-olds are missing out on getting vaccinated in school due to a high level of coronavirus cases amongst pupils, as well as logistical problems with vaccination teams not having enough staff to deal with all the students needing jabs.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “The key to bringing levels of Covid-19 infection back under control in our schools and colleges is clearly the vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds but it has not been happening fast enough.

“It was painfully slow to get underway in some areas and has been beset by logistical problems, not to mention being disrupted by the irresponsible actions of anti-vaccination protesters.”

He added: “The announcement from NHS England that young people can attend vaccination drop-in centres during the half-term holiday is a big help and we hope they will do so in sufficient numbers to help slow the spread of the virus in schools and colleges.”

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