Children’s Covid jabs are being scheduled at schools even though approval is yet to be given, it has emerged.
Parents have said they were “shocked” to receive letters from their children’s schools informing them of a Covid vaccine schedule for the autumn term for children aged 12 to 15.
Earlier this week, the Covid vaccine was approved for healthy 16- to 17-year-olds and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not ruled out extending jabs to younger children.
Scientific advisers are continuing to review the evidence for immunising those aged 12 to 15.
But some secondary schools are already making preparations for the vaccine to be rolled out to younger children later this year.
John Ferneley College, an academy in Leicestershire, wrote to parents this week with a schedule for when children in school years eight to eleven could be vaccinated at the school. Families were told that the first dose was due to take place in mid-September and the second in early January 2022.
“Following the pandemic and the successful implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in adults, we are anticipating a decision from the Government if the Covid-19 vaccine will be offered to young people,” the letter said. “Should this be confirmed upon return in the autumn term, the Leicestershire NHS Community Immunisation Service are anticipating that this will be given within a school setting during this autumn/winter, as a two-dose course. “Thus, in the interest of planning the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust have shared provisional Covid vaccination dates with us for the new school academic year.” Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust confirmed that it had written to all the schools in its area to “inform them of our proposed immunisation schedules”. It said that advance preparation helped both schools and the Trust with planning, but added that the Covid vaccinations in schools would only go ahead if authorisation was given by the Government.
One parent whose two children are at John Ferneley College said: “I was just shocked that they were even planning dates. It just makes you think this is definitely planned that this is going to happen at some point in the next few months. My main worry is will my children still be able to go to school if they don’t have it?” Molly Kingsley, co-founder of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said it was "concerning" to see NHS trusts and schools "creating a presumption as to the JCVI decision".
She added: "This is wrong for many reasons but not least because it shows they are creating pressure towards a course of action without regard to the medical benefits or risks to the children supposedly in their care."
The first coronavirus jabs are now on offer for healthy 16 and 17-year-olds and walk-ins are open to older teenagers in Northern Ireland from Friday, just two days after it was announced the vaccine rollout was being extended to them. Pfizer doses are available at regional vaccination centres and pop-up walk-in vaccine clinics. Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust said that for many years it had immunised children in school to keep them protected from various illnesses, including flu and human papillomavirus.
“This year, in addition to our usual vaccine schedule, we wrote to schools with provisional dates for Covid-19 vaccines, highlighting this would be subject to confirmation of the Government’s Covid guidance, to enable all parties to plan as required to ensure the process runs smoothly. We will only vaccinate those people in school eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, in accordance with government guidance and timescales.”
John Ferneley College declined to comment.