School-based immunisation for children aged 12 to 15 year olds

In autumn 2021, all children aged 12 to 15 in Cornwall will be offered both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine. The flu vaccination programme already includes all children in primary schools. This year it’s being expanded to include older children. Children aged 12 to 15 will also be offered 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
This significant expansion in the school immunisation programme is part of the government’s wider winter planning to reduce flu levels in the population. Therefore the potential impact on the NHS, when we are likely to see both flu and coronavirus (COVID-19) in circulation. In our area, the school immunisation service is provided by Kernow Health CIC.

Most vaccinations will be given in a school setting. We will also provide community clinics for young people who are unable to attend school-based clinics, due to absence from school, refusing on the day or for those who are home educated. Parents or carers will be sent a letter from Kernow Health CIC via the child’s school or by post if home educated. The letters include information about the vaccines, the importance of immunisation, a link to an online consent form and a unique school code. All vaccines have separate consent forms, including those for flu and COVID-19.

If parents or carers consent to both vaccines, they will be given at the same time. The flu vaccine is administered using a nasal spray, while the COVID vaccine will be given with an injection to a child’s upper arm.

What are the timescales of the universal children aged 12 to 15 year olds vaccination programme?

We expect to have completed the programme before the end of the autumn term.

What happens if my child is unwell on the day of the vaccination clinic at their school?

We will be holding a series of community clinics. Appointments can be made for any eligible child who misses the COVID vaccine on the day of our visit to the school, or for home educated children. Anyone who is unable to attend the vaccination session at their school will be able to have the COVID-19 and/or flu in one of these clinics. These community clinics also include access to flu, HPV and a few DTP/MenACWY vaccinations. We will provide information about how to book an appointment nearer the time.

What type of COVID vaccine will be given to children aged 12 to 15?

In our area, we will be using Comirnaty (the licensed name for Pfizer) for children aged 12 to 15 and they will be given 1 dose. If a second dose is recommended in future, parents or carers will be asked to complete another consent form.

What if a parent objects to the nasal flu vaccine (LAIV) on grounds of porcine gelatine content?

If a parent objects to having the flu vaccine on the grounds of the porcine gelatine content, an alternative flu vaccine will be offered via the school immunisation service, which would be given by an injection to the upper arm.

Why are children aged 12 to 15 year olds only being offered 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

For most children and young people COVID-19 is usually a milder illness that rarely leads to complications. Given the lower risk of illness for this age group, the chief medical officers have recommended 1 dose is sufficient and gives a good level of protection for the child, and their family and friends.

As flu and COVID vaccines are being co-administered is there a risk my child could be given the wrong vaccine?

The flu and COVID-19 vaccinations will have separate consent forms. Although the vaccines will be administered at the same time, the flu vaccine is given to children as a nasal spray. There are a few children for whom the nasal spray is contraindicated; these children can be offered the intramuscular injection.

What happens if parents or carers don’t give consent, but their child wants to have the flu or COVID-19 vaccine?

No child will be vaccinated within a school setting without consent from their parent or carer.

If a child aged 12 to 15 expresses that they would like to have the COVID or flu vaccination and their parent or carer has refused consent or not replied to the consent request, a phone call will be made to the parent or carer to discuss consent. If parents or carers will not give consent, and the child wishes to have the vaccine, the child and parents will be invited to a clinic to discuss their circumstances with a clinician.

Children under the age of 16 can consent to their own treatment if they’re believed to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment if they have enough:

  • intelligence
  • competence and understanding

This is known as being Gillick competent.

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