Walk-in vaccine clinics for 12- to 15-year-olds are expected to be launched in England within weeks, to stem rising rates of Covid-19 infections within secondary schools.
The news came as the UK recorded 45,140 new Covid cases – the highest daily number since the middle of July – and 57 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
The percentage of Britons testing positive for coronavirus is currently highest for those aged 12-15, yet the the vaccination rate among this age group stands at just 14.2% in England, compared with 44.3% in Scotland – prompting criticism about England’s decision to administer vaccinations solely through schools.
Older teenagers in England can already attend walk-in clinics to receive their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, with 56.5% of 16- to 18-year-olds now vaccinated. The expansion of the scheme to younger teenagers would bring England into line with Scotland, where 12- to 15-year-olds can also attend walk-in clinics.
Watch: 12 to 15 year olds in England are now offered Covid jab
In Wales, 12- to 15-year-olds are largely being vaccinated at vaccination centres, while in Northern Ireland, like England, the rollout is largely being conducted within schools.
Ministers are planning to expand walk-in vaccination appointments to younger teenagers amid concerns that the government has been too slow rolling out the vaccine programme in English schools, the Mail on Sunday reported.
According to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics, one in 14 secondary school-age children had Covid during the week ending 8 October. This was up from an estimated one in 20 pupils the previous week, suggesting that the vaccination programme is struggling to keep up with the spread of Covid through secondary schools.
Prof Kevin McConway, an emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said the latest results in secondary school-age children were “concerning”. “However you look at it, this is a huge increase, and it clearly follows from schools having reopened and, crucially, from vaccination rates of children in that age group still being low,” he said.
The government had set half-term as a target for what ministers had hoped would be a speedy rollout in schools, but with less than a week to go, it is looks increasingly unlikely that that target will be met.
Some parents have told the Guardian that their children haven’t been offered a vaccination appointment until November. There are also reports of sessions being cancelled at the last minute and “poorly prepared” vaccination teams overwhelmed by demand having to leave sites after vaccinating just a fraction of pupils with consent.
Watch: Professor Chris Whitty confident jab will reduce education disruption