Across the country, invitations to get a COVID-19 vaccine are landing on the doormats of all 16 and 17 year olds in an effort to boost take-up in this age group, as the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history expands further.
Over 61,465 people aged 16 and 17 in the South East have already had their jab – which includes those who were previously eligible due to an underlying health condition – with more than 21,986 getting their jab in the first two weeks of the NHS being given the green light to offer the life-saving jab to this age group.
Sixteen-year-old Georgie Stephens was one of those who took up the offer by having her vaccination yesterday in Bracknell Forest. She said: “Being vaccinated means I can get back to normal life and the things I love doing.”
Katie Stephens, Georgie’s mum who is double jabbed, said: “I’m thrilled because it means that the whole family will soon be fully vaccinated, especially as it will be safer to see Georgie’s grandparents who live next door.
“I thought it would be a while before the vaccine was available for 16 and 17 year olds so as soon as it was announced, we quickly booked an appointment to get Georgie protected as well.”
She added: “Georgie has had all her vaccinations right the way through childhood which means she is protected from other illnesses so why not this one, especially as this one has disrupted her school and social life the most. Whatever we can all do to get back to some form of normality is a no-brainer.”
When asked how she felt when seeing dozens of other youngsters being vaccinated at the same time as Georgie, Katie said: “It’s so encouraging. It’s almost like the younger ones are showing the older people the way to do it.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) updated guidance on 4 August so that all 16 and 17-year-olds could be offered one dose of the vaccine. Anyone in this age group can now find their nearest centre through the ‘grab a jab’ NHS online walk-in finder, with more sites becoming available every day.
Follow-up text messages are being sent out today to ensure NHS staff are vaccinating 16 and 17-year-olds as quickly as possible ahead of their return to school.
GPs are also inviting at-risk children aged between 12 and 15 years old, who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 or live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from the virus, with 5,328 children in this age group already protected in the region.
NHS staff in the South East have delivered over 12 million doses since the NHS in England administered the first jab outside of clinical trials in December 2020.
Dr Vaughan Lewis, Medical Director for the NHS in the South East, said: “Thanks to the dedication and hard work of NHS staff, and the teenagers who have already come forward for their COVID-19 jabs across Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the NHS in the South East has administered more than 61,465 first doses to 16 and 17-year olds, protecting themselves, their families, and their friends from the virus.
“The vaccine is safe and effective with nearly nine in 10 adults in England already taking up the offer, and I would urge anyone eligible, especially those 16 and 17 year olds heading back into school or college, to get their life-saving jab”
The National Booking Service (NBS) is currently open to anyone aged 18 or over, and to people within three months of their 18th birthday.
Seventeen-year-old Freya Bryers and 16-year-old Oskar Baumgart were amongst other young people getting vaccinated today. Freya, who is off to Reading Festival later this month, said she wanted to feel safe again and get back to normal life while Oskar said having the jab was important to him because he wanted to protect his family and grandparents.
The NHS has been jabbing at hundreds of convenient locations across the country, including mosques, football stadiums and other community hubs, as well as a number of pop-up clinics at shops, festivals, and locations like Thorpe Park.
Children aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 will be contacted by the NHS and invited for their vaccine. Those who are eligible include those with Down’s syndrome, or undergoing many cancer treatments, have had organ or bone marrow transplants or who are on the learning disability register.
The COVID-19 vaccine will also be offered to children aged 12 years and over who live with someone who is immunosuppressed, such as those receiving chemotherapy or who have had a transplant
Second doses are available to people over 18 who had their first dose eight weeks ago, in line with JCVI guidance.