Hundreds of vaccinators are being hired to go into schools from next month, it has emerged, as officials indicated the Covid jab could be rolled out to all teenagers.
Staff are being hired for the mass flu vaccination programme, which is being offered to all under-16s for the first time.
It comes as the Covid vaccine was approved for healthy 16 to 17-year-olds, who will be offered a first dose of the Pfizer jab within weeks.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not ruled out extending the use of the Covid jab to younger children, and scientific advisers are continuing to review the evidence for immunising those aged 12 to 15.
But Dr June Raine, the head of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which has ruled that the Pfizer jab is safe for those aged 12 to 15, said: “Our advice remains that the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks for the majority of people.”
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said that the Covid jabs for 16- and 17-year-olds would be partly delivered through schools. He said that as well as GPs and hospital hubs, “we’ll be working through the already existing schools vaccination programme, which I think will help to bolster this”.
Dr Tom Jefferson, an expert in respiratory viruses and senior associate tutor at the University of Oxford, said that the infrastructure that was being put in place in schools for the flu vaccine could “absolutely” be repurposed for a rollout of the Covid vaccine for children.
A briefing note for schools on the flu vaccine programme, published by Public Health England, states that schools have a “key role” to play in “promoting uptake of the vaccination programme because of the relationship they have with parents, children and young people”.
More than 200 job advertisements are currently open for school vaccinators and administrators, most of which have been published in the last 10 days.
Amanda Schiller, clinical director at Vaccination UK, which is commissioned by NHS England to administer the school inoculation programme in parts of the country, said that sending vaccinators to schools was a “convenient” way to carry out a mass inoculation programme.
She told The Telegraph: “It allows us to vaccinate larger numbers of children more easily. In terms of Covid, we can’t foresee what’s going to happen this winter. Having it run in schools is much more convenient for parents, it makes it easier for us as well, and safer.”
Molly Kingsley, co-founder of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said that some parents would be concerned that the flu jab programme was “moving us one step closer to mass Covid vaccines rolled out in schools”.
She added: “We should not be edging towards something that has not been sanctioned by JCVI. It is building a climate of pressure.”