Following recommendations made by the UK’s chief medical officers, the age group will be eligible to receive one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Jack Lane, a 14-year-old pupil at Belfairs Academy secondary school in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, was among the first to be vaccinated this morning. “I am proud to have had my vaccination so that I can remain in school and continue in my education – the jab was quick, easy, and painless,” he said.
Hundreds of schools across the country are set to begin offering the vaccine this week. Jabs are being delivered by local School Age Immunisation Services, as is the case with the flu and HPV vaccines.
In line with standard practice for vaccinations in schools, consent letters are being sent out to parents and guardians with information on the Covid-19 vaccination.
Guidance has also been issued to headteachers to contact police if they believe protests could be held outside their buildings.
Families do not need to contact the NHS to arrange their child’s vaccine, schools and providers will be in touch.
Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and deputy lead for the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “The vaccine is safe and effective and I would urge families to work closely with their schools-based vaccination team to get their loved ones vaccinated when they are invited to protect themselves and their families ahead of the winter period.”
The rollout for 12- to 15-year-olds is also beginning in Scotland and Wales this week.
Young people in this age bracket in Scotland can go to drop-in clinics or wait for a letter offering them a scheduled appointment. Jabs for children in Wales will be carried out at mass vaccination centres and some school settings.
Quinn Foakes, a 15-year-old pupil at Belfairs Academy, who also received his vaccine on Monday morning, said: “I was nervous at first but in the long run it’s going to be good because I can keep safe near my family and with my grandparents. I can go near them, I’m really excited to be around them.”
Quinn said that learning at home during the pandemic had been “really hard” and he had previously had to isolate. “Now that I’ve got my jab I can stay in school and learn – with my GCSEs coming up it’s going to be really good,” he added.
Children aged 12 to 15 with health conditions that put them at increased risk from Covid, as well as those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed, are already being invited to be vaccinated and are eligible for two doses of Pfizer.
It is expected that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will advise in the new year whether a second dose is needed for school children, after the appropriate data has been collected.
Meanwhile, Pfizer has said its vaccine is safe and effective to use in children aged five to 11, and that it will seek US authorisation for the age group soon.
Pfizer tested a much lower dose for young children – a third of the amount that is included in a regular shot for adults.
This new dosage proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects – such as sore arms, fever or achiness – that teens experience, the company said. It also generated a strong antibody response.