Ministers have urged parents to vaccinate their children against Covid-19 amid concerns about the vaccination program in secondary schools.
The plea comes after the latest numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that an estimated 1 in 15 children in school years 7-11 in England will contract coronavirus in the week ending October 2.
A school principals union said principals were “increasingly frustrated” with delays in the Covid-19 vaccination program for 12-15 year olds in schools at a time of increasing student absenteeism.
The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) suggests that by October 3, only 9% of this cohort in England had been vaccinated.
In a joint letter to the parents of secondary school and college students, Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Health Minister Sajid Javid said “Vaccines are our best defense”.
Three million students between the ages of 12 and 15 across the UK are eligible for an initial Covid-19 vaccination as part of an induction started three weeks ago.
The program is expected to be run primarily within schools, but in Scotland young people in this cohort can also go to vaccination clinics.
More than a third of 12-15 year olds in Scotland have had a vaccination, the latest figures show.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has announced that it will support the use of walk-in centers in England if this would help increase the “uptake and speed of delivery” of vaccines in the age group.
It comes after figures show that the number of children out of school for reasons related to Covid-19 in England has increased by two-thirds in 14 days.
The Ministry of Education (DfE) estimates that on 30.
Geoff Barton, Secretary General of ASCL said: “We welcome the intervention of the Education Secretary to encourage the uptake of Covid vaccinations and indeed everything else that can be done to promote this important program.
“However, school principals are becoming increasingly frustrated with delays in introducing coronavirus vaccinations.
“There appear to be logistical problems with the capacity of health teams to deliver vaccinations at the speed and extent required.
“The urgency of this program stems from the fact that the latest government statistics show that more than 200,000 students were recently out of school due to the coronavirus. Many schools also have a shortage of teachers because the employees are infected with the virus. “
Mr. Barton has urged the government to “do everything possible” to ensure that the immunization program is adequately resourced to combat disruption.
“If walk-in centers helped increase adoption and delivery speed, we would really appreciate it,” he added.
Preliminary data from the government’s coronavirus dashboard suggests 11.7% of 12-15 year olds in England were vaccinated on October 10, compared with 38.9% of 12-15 year olds in Scotland.
In Monday’s letter, Mr. Zahawi and Mr. Javid asked for “support” from parents to encourage their children to test themselves for Covid-19 twice a week and to “stand up” for vaccination to ensure face-to-face classes were possible is to continue.
It says, “This is one of the best things young people can do to protect themselves and those around them.”
The letter adds, “Vaccines are our best defense against Covid-19. They help to protect young people and benefit their fellow human beings. The vaccination reduces the likelihood that people will become infected with the virus and less likely to pass it on. “
Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the NAHT School Directors Union, said: “The vaccination program in secondary schools is progressing slowly. It is important that parents and adolescents are offered the vaccine as soon as possible so that they can make their decision about whether to take it.
“Unfortunately, one of the reasons for the slow deployment is that children miss their chance to get a vaccination because they contracted Covid-19.
“If they are sick, they miss vaccination slots at school – and they cannot be vaccinated while they are sick anyway – there is a 28-day waiting period before a child who has had Covid can then be vaccinated.”
He called for further measures – such as improved ventilation – to reduce diseases and disorders and “to accelerate the introduction of vaccinations”.
An NHS spokesman said: “In just a few weeks, hundreds of schools have held vaccination clinics that have protected nearly 200,000 children aged 12-15.
“As the rollout continues, local providers continue to contact schools and work with parents to get their consent so they can organize a visit.”