Response to the new Omicron variant of COVID-19

On Monday 29 November the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations made a series of recommendations to expand the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme in response to the new coronavirus variant Omicron. Operationally, we have a lot of work to do and there will be no immediate changes to the Vaccination Programme, so please don’t contact the NHS until more information is released about how these recommendations will be rolled out.

In the meantime, if you are currently eligible for any of your vaccinations, please come forward. A full list of who is currently eligible can be found here.

Who is this service for?

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. One dose is being offered to children aged 12 to 15 to give them the best protection against COVID-19.

This includes children who turn 12 on the date of vaccination.

Some children are being offered 2 doses of a vaccine if either:

  • they live with someone who is more likely to get infections
  • they have a condition that means they’re at high risk from COVID-19

Some frequently asked questions

What is the 12 to 15 year old COVID-19 vaccination programme?

All children aged 12 to 15 are eligible for 1 dose of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine (the new name for the Pfizer vaccine), alongside a nasal flu vaccine. The aim is to reduce flu and COVID-19 levels in circulation this winter, to minimise disruption to schooling and to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 within schools and families.

While COVID-19 is usually mild in most children and young people, it can be very unpleasant for some and one dose of the vaccine will provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation. The vaccine will reduce disruption to education, which is good for children’s welfare and mental health.

Our 12 to 15 year programme is being delivered by a small, highly trained team who are and working extremely hard to deliver vaccinations across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG). Please be kind and patient. We will continue to offer vaccinations for children in this age group as long as there is demand.

12 to 15 children who are eligible for more than 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some children aged 12-15 are eligible for more than 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine due to underlying health conditions or to protect people they live with. They are:

  • Children aged 12 to 15 with specific underlying health conditionswho are at higher risk from COVID-19 are being offered 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. They will be vaccinated at GP-led clinics and your GP will be in touch if your child is eligible. A full list of conditions can be found here.
  • Children and young people aged 12 to 15 who are household contactsof people who are immunosuppressed are being offered 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The person with a weakened immune system will be contacted by their GP with details of how to make an appointment at a GP-run clinic for young people in this position. More information on vaccinating children and young people can be found here.
  • Children and young people aged 12 to 15 who are severely immunosuppressed are being offered 3 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at GP-run clinics. Your GP or consultant will be in touch to invite you for your third dose.

Children is in this position may have their first dose at a school-clinic and will then be signposted to a GP-led clinic for their second or third dose. Alternatively, they will be contacted by their GP or consultant to arrange their vaccinations.

Where can I get more information on the COVID-19 vaccine?

This NHS webpage provides more information for parents and children on the vaccine, including how it works and what to expect after COVID-19 vaccination.

The same page includes accessible versions of the consent form and leaflets available for those with a learning disability or who live with autism. Braille and British Sign Language (BSL) videos can be ordered or downloaded, and translations are also available.

If you are unsure about whether to consent to your child having the vaccine, we recommend that you do your own research using trusted sources of information. Below are links to some reliable resources that you may find helpful.

How are children aged 12 to 15 being offered the COVID-19 vaccine? 

In BNSSG, 12 to 15 year olds will be offered a vaccination at a school-based clinic.

If your child is unable to be vaccinated at their school clinic for any reason, or if you don’t want to wait for the clinic to visit your child’s school, you can book an appointment for your child at a 12 to 15 year old vaccination clinic using the online National Booking Service or by calling 119.

We will also provide clinics in specific communities to address local needs.

What are the timescales of the 12 to 15 year old vaccination programme?

We expect to have visited all 92 schools in our area by Christmas 2021 and will continue to offer booked appointments for 12 to 15 year olds as long as there is demand.

If my child has had COVID-19 do they still need to have a vaccine?

Yes. It is still important to have a vaccine to generate a stronger, longer-lasting immune system response to COVID-19.

How will the school-based vaccination programme be rolled-out?

Parents/carers of 12 to 15 year olds will be sent information about both the COVID-19 and flu vaccinations by their child’s school 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 you will be asked whether or not you agree to your child having each vaccine.

If you 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.

Younger children, in primary school and Year 7, will be offered the nasal flu vaccine through their school. This programme will be completed by the end of January.

My child is home educated or does not attend school. How can they be vaccinated?

If your child is home educated, you can book an appointment for them using the online National Booking Service or calling 119. If you do not see an appointment in our area, please keep trying as we are adding new clinics regularly.

My child was not able to be vaccinated when their school clinic happened. How can they be vaccinated?

There are a number of reason why your child may not have been able to be vaccinated at their school clinic, such as time/resource constraints of the vaccination team, being absent due to illness or being within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test.

If your child was not able to be vaccinated at their school clinic for any reason, you can book an appointment at a 12 to 15 year old vaccination clinic using the online National Booking Service or by calling 119. If you live in Bristol, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire, your child will also be offered their nasal flu vaccine at the same clinic.

We are unable to vaccinate anyone within a month (28 days) of a positive COVID-19 test which means there are likely to be children in every school who are unable to be vaccinated when their school-based clinic takes place. If they have tested positive for COVID-19, they must wait a month (28 days) after their positive COVID test result to be vaccinated.

My child is scared of needles but wants to have the vaccine.

All our vaccinators are highly trained and used to giving immunisations to children. If your child is worried about having the injection, please ask them to let the vaccination team know and they will be given additional support.

You may prefer to book an appointment for your child at a 12 to 15 year old clinic using the online National Booking System or by calling 119, rather than having them vaccinated in a school setting. This would mean you could be with them during their vaccination and it might be a calmer environment for your child than a school clinic.

I don’t want my child to have the nasal flu vaccine because of the porcine gelatine content. Is there an alternative?

The flu nasal spray contains very small amounts of porcine gelatine, which is used as a stabiliser in the vaccine. Some people may not accept the use of porcine gelatine in medical products. For these children, there is an alternative vaccine available which is given by injection to the upper arm. If you would like your child to have this vaccine, please contact sirona.sch-imms@nhs.net.

If a young person has allergies can they have the vaccination?

There are very few young people who cannot receive the vaccine. All young people and their parents or carers should consult their clinician if they have concerns regarding allergies and COVID-19 vaccination.

Is it safe for children to have the COVID-19 vaccine?

The medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has confirmed the Comirnaty (the new name for the Pfizer) vaccine is safe and effective for 12 to 17 year olds. This followed a rigorous review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group.

The Pfizer vaccine has been given to millions of 12 to 15 year olds in a number of countries, including 8 million in the United States. Data from these countries shows that the vaccine has a good safety record. More information on vaccinating children and young people can be found here.

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 a mild 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.

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. Read more about Gillick competency here. 

What if the child has tested positive for Covid-19?

We are unable to vaccinate anyone within 12 weeks (48 days) of a positive COVID-19 test which means there are likely to be children in every school who are unable to be vaccinated when their school-based clinic takes place. If they have tested positive for COVID-19, they must wait 12 weeks (48 days) after their positive COVID test result to be vaccinated.

Service provided by Sirona

School Immunisations Team

01275 373104

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