Covid jab rollout for school children ‘overwhelmed by demand’

Children aged 12 to 15 have been offered their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. 

Children aged 12 to 15 have been offered their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. - Credit: PA

The body running the Covid vaccination programme for school age children in Norfolk says it is exploring additional ways to deliver jabs after being overwhelmed. 

Demand has outstripped supply with dozens of children having to be turned away from vaccination sessions held across the county. 

All children aged 12 to 15 became eligible for their first dose of the Pfizer jab last month, with sessions taking place in schools.

Some daily sessions being held in Norfolk secondary schools have seen up to 800 pupils wanting the jab, a volume that teams have been unable to deliver. 

School vaccination

The Norfolk programme is being overseen by the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS). - Credit: PA

Latest data has shown that fewer than one in 10 in the age group had been vaccinated by last Sunday, though NHS England said the actual delivery had been higher. 

The Norfolk programme is being overseen by the Hertfordshire and East Anglia Community and School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS).

Its spokesman said: “Demand for the vaccination across Norfolk and East Anglia has been high and there has been a really positive response to the vaccination offer from 12-15 year olds and their parents and carers. 

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“There have been some occasions when it hasn't been possible to vaccinate everyone during the allotted school clinic times. Further arrangements are being made to ensure that everyone who wants one can access a vaccination.”

Headteachers have accused the government of underestimating the challenge of vaccinating so many students.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union. - Credit: Archant

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Former local head Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the ASCL headteachers union, said: “We have heard of vaccinations being cancelled because demand for the vaccine has outstripped supply, and of issues arising where either a website has crashed on which parents give consent, or the school has been asked to manage the administrative process without sufficient time to make these arrangements."

It comes as positive Covid cases among school children in Norfolk is at its highest level since the pandemic began while the number of pupils absent from lessons for Covid reasons has soared.

A sign pointing out the Castle Quarter Vaccination Centre. Picture: Danielle Booden

School children could be offered alternative sites to be Covid jabs like the Castle Quarter Vaccination Centre. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The SAIS said it was in the process of rescheduling catch-up visits to schools while children could also be offered sessions at adult vaccine centres. 

“This date will be shared with parents and carers via the headteachers as soon as possible,” said its spokesman. 

“We are also looking into other options delivering this vaccination programme at alternative venues, such as mass vaccinations centres.“

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