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CONSENT KEY: School covid-19 vaccination programme hits Teesside

CONSENT KEY: School covid-19 vaccination programme hits Teesside

A leaflet from the NHS explaining covid-19 vaccines for children, Image: Department of Health and Social Care

Consent will be key to the covid-19 vaccine programme for healthy 12 to 15 year-olds which will begin in schools on Teesside from Monday.

Mark Adams, the South Tees area joint director of public health, said it was important that families supported the school programme and consent was sought.

Youngsters will receive a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine after a recommendation by the UK’s four chief medical officers and approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Parents and carers are being sent letters with information about the vaccine and will be encouraged to discuss the benefits and the risks of the vaccination with their children, so they can make an informed decision.

Children will only be vaccinated in school when a parent or guardian has provided prior written consent 48 hours beforehand.

The school age immunisation service, which is delivering the vaccine programme and already has responsibility for flu and HPV vaccines in school, has agreed that children will not be vaccinated

:: when parents have not consented;

:: when children want to be vaccinated, but parents have not consented;

:: when parents have consented and the child doesn’t want it.

Mr Adams, who gave a presentation to Redcar and Cleveland’s adult and communities scrutiny committee on the latest covid-19 picture in the region, referred to potential “logistical issues” with the school programme as full guidance was yet to be issued by the Government.

He also said the issue of consent would likely reduce the overall take-up of the Pfizer vaccine.

The vaccine will also be available courtesy of ‘mop up’ sessions for children who miss planned clinics when they take place in school, are home-educated, or where there is a change of heart about receiving the jab.

Mr Adams said: “It [the vaccine] will be important in terms of reducing onward infection to other members of the [child’s] household.”

The first healthy 12 to 15 year-olds to receive the vaccine in the North-East were at schools in Newcastle on Wednesday, with Teesside following next week.

Professor Neil Watson, chief operating officer for the NHS covid vaccination programme for the North-East and North Cumbria said, “We recognise the impact of children missing school has on both their physical and mental wellbeing and are offering vaccinations in school time with the minimum disruption to the school day.”

It is hoped the vaccine will assist in stopping large outbreaks of the coronavirus in schools and teaching environments and slow the virus from moving from schools to households and the wider community.

Mr Adams said there had been an impact from schools opening earlier this month on the 0-19 age category, which had seen a recent rising number of covid-19 cases up to September 18.

At this stage the vaccination programme is due to run until October half-term.

Mr Adams described the general vaccination programme to date delivered by the NHS as “incredibly impressive”.

And he also praised the impact of pop up clinics, which have been recently operating in Redcar and Cleveland in areas such as Loftus, Redcar, Skelton and South Bank, and which had vaccinated 1,429 people to date.

He said: “There has been a huge interest – when you take the vaccines to the people, people want to have the vaccines and you get the rates up.

“But it is complex, we can’t get a supply of the vaccine ourselves and provide vaccinators as it is not something we lead on.

“The connection with communities is really important and having a conversation with people – in general people aren’t getting vaccinated because they are resistant to it, it’s more that access is difficult or they haven’t thought about it.

“We vaccinated a man sleeping in a Tesco doorway and there was no way he would have been vaccinated without the team approaching him and making it as easy as possible for him.”

Mr Adams said despite high vaccination uptake in Redcar and Cleveland – 77.6% of the population having received two doses of a covid-19 vaccine, which is higher than the North-East and England average – there remained an unvaccinated cohort, including 3,256 people aged 50 or over.

Mr Adams appeared to criticise the Government, stating that messaging around the pandemic on a national level had been “confused and convoluted”.

He also said had it been his choice he would have continued to mandate face coverings on public transport, something which is included in a ‘plan B’ by the Government to help control transmission of the virus over the winter.

He said: “If I exercise my personal belief not to wear a face covering, I am potentially affecting everyone else on the bus.”

Councillor Steve Kay, Redcar and Cleveland Council’s cabinet member for health, housing and welfare, said he was still continuing to receive social media posts from people spreading conspiracy theories about the virus and the vaccines available to combat it.

He said: “The vaccine works.

“People have to get into the real world and listen to sensible people and get the vaccine.”

:: Invitations are also being sent this week to eligible people to book a covid booster jab as the NHS vaccination programme enters a new phase ahead of winter.

For adults once they receive their invite they will be able to book an appointment online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination.

People that aren’t able go online can book by phoning 119.

Booster jabs are deemed effective for topping up protection for people who have had both of their jabs and are at least six months after their second dose.

Hospital hubs have already started vaccinating frontline health and care workers, as well as identifying other eligible patients for their booster vaccine with GP-led local vaccination services contacting eligible patients.

Adults should receive either one dose of the Pfizer vaccine or half a dose of the Moderna vaccine, which means for some people their booster dose may be different from the vaccines they had for their first and second dose.

People could also be offered a booster dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they cannot have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Local health teams will prioritise care home residents and staff who are eligible and offer a booster jab by the beginning of November.

Those who are eligible for a booster include

:: those living in residential care homes for older adults;

:: all adults aged 50 years or over;

:: frontline health and social care workers;

:: all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe covid-19 and adult carers;

:: adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

 

Words: Stuart Arnold, Local Democracy Reporter


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