Government accused of ‘lacklustre approach’ to vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds

·2-min read
Children aged 12 to 15 can now get the Covid-19 vaccine (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Children aged 12 to 15 can now get the Covid-19 vaccine (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

The Labour Party has accused the Government of taking a “lacklustre approach” to vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds as it claimed some young people may still be waiting for their jabs more than three months after officials had hoped to offer them the vaccine.

It said that, at the current rate of progress, some teenagers will not get their jabs until February - meaning it would miss targets set by NHS England to offer the vaccine to all eligible teenagers in that age group by up to 15 weeks.

Labour expressed concern this approach was “keeping children out of school”.

Shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green, said: “Children have been treated as an afterthought throughout this pandemic and continue to be let down by a Conservative Government which has shown no care for them and their futures.

“Labour has been urging ministers to make every effort to get the vaccine out to children over 12, from pop-up and walk-in clinics to bringing back volunteers and retired clinicians.

“This must come alongside finally introducing the ventilation in schools that Sage recommended well over a year ago and giving schools the support they need on masks and other mitigations.

“The Conservatives have been complacent, and children are paying the price. The Government must get a grip and stop neglecting children’s education.”

NHS England promised it would offer all eligible teenagers in that age group a jab by October half-term.

The latest data suggests that 1.6 per cent of all pupils, approximately 130,000 children, missed teaching for reasons connected to coronavirus on November 11.

This was down from about 248,000 children, or 3.2 per cent of all pupils, on October 21, the week before many schools went on half-term.

It based its prediction that some younger teenagers may not get their jabs until next year on the average vaccination rate for the past four weeks.

If the rollout were to continue at the current pace, it would take until February 7 to vaccinate the remaining eligible 12-15-year-olds, the party said.

Labour called on the Government to make “better use” of community pharmacies and walk-in and pop-up clinics to make it easier for parents to get their children vaccinated.

It also said more volunteers and retired clinicians should be brought back to speed up the rollout.

Vaccines have been available to 12-to-15-year-olds in England since September 20, and initially they were delivered mainly by NHS teams in schools.

This changed just before the October half-term holiday when parents and children became able to book a jab online at a local vaccination centre.

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