In autumn 2021, all children aged 12 to 15 in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) will be offered both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine. The flu vaccination programme already includes all children in primary schools and is being expanded this year to include older children. Children aged 12-15 will also be offered one 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, and 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 Sirona care & health.
Most vaccinations will be given in a school setting and we will also provide community clinics for young people who are unable to attend school-based clinics. Parents/carers will be sent information about both vaccinations by their child’s school or local authority which will include a link to an online consent portal. The consent portal has separate consent forms for the flu and COVID-19 vaccines and parents/carers will be asked whether or not they agree to their child having each vaccine. Paper copies of the consent forms will also be available.
If parents/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-19 vaccine will be given with an injection to a child’s upper arm.
What are the timescales of the universal 12 to 15 year old vaccination programme?
Our local programme will begin in the week of 20 September 2021 with vaccinations in Special Schools and then rolled out in Secondary schools. 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 for 12 to 15 year olds. 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. We will provide information about how to book an appointment nearer the time.
What type of COVID vaccine will be given to children?
In our area, we will be using the Comirnaty vaccine (the new name for Pfizer) for children aged 12 to 15 and they will be given one dose. If a second dose is recommended in future, parents/carers will be asked to complete another consent form.
What if a parent objects to the intranasal 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 12 to 15 year olds only being offered one 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 one 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 while the COVID vaccine is given as an injection in the upper arm, so there is no possibility of the vaccines being confused.
What happens if parent/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/carer has refused consent or not replied to the consent request, a phone call will be made to the parent/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 have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment. This is known as being Gillick competent.