Revealed: 12-15 vaccine take-up just 3% in some areas

Exclusive: 'Urgent support' needed, school leaders warn, as Tes analysis reveals areas with lowest uptake

Charlotte Santry

12-15 vaccines

As few as 3 per cent of secondary students aged 12-15 have been vaccinated against Covid in parts of England, a Tes analysis reveals.

And areas that have already been hit with the highest levels of educational disruption as a result of Covid are among those with the lowest pupil vaccination uptake.

Across all local authority areas, an average of 11 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds had been jabbed as of Sunday, the analysis of government data shows.

But in eight areas, the figure is lower than 5 per cent.

The figures show that meeting the government's target to vaccinate all 12- to 15-year-olds by October half-term is “now looking a remote possibility in many areas“, a headteachers’ leader is warning.

However, the picture is varied, with more than 30 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds receiving their vaccine in some parts of the country.

School leaders are calling for urgent support to ensure vaccinations teams are properly resourced to finish the national programme as soon as possible, as Covid cases soar in schools.


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There has been rising concern about the sluggish pace of the vaccination programme happening in schools.

Yesterday, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi wrote to parents urging them to “encourage” their children to have the vaccine in order to help students “stay in face-to-face learning”.

Obstacles to Covid vaccination

But the programme has been hit with a series of obstacles, including staffing shortages within the School Age Vaccinations Teams carrying out the vaccinations.

In addition, children cannot be vaccinated if they have had the virus 28 days previously – but one in 15 secondary students had Covid in the week to 2 October.

There have also been anti-vaccination protests outside schools and mixed messaging about the safety of the vaccine for children.

At Barking and Dagenham, the local authority area with the lowest take-up among 12- to 15-year-olds, only 3.2 per cent had been vaccinated as of Sunday.

Half-term target ‘a remote possibility’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The rollout appears to be going very well at some schools but, at others, there are logistical problems such as the vaccination teams having insufficient staff to deal with the number of students needing jabs, running out of vaccines or even not turning up when they have arranged to.

“The original plan was to have vaccinations completed by the October half-term but this is now looking a remote possibility in many areas.”

Young people will have prepared themselves mentally for having the vaccine on a certain day, “so problems like these will only add to any worries they may already have”, he added.

Areas with lowest 12-15 vaccine uptake

Local authority                        12-15 vaccine uptake (%)

Barking and Dagenham

3.2

Newham

3.6

Hackney and City of London

3.8

Lewisham

4.5

Greenwich

4.6

Waltham Forest

4.7

Tower Hamlets

4.8

Wolverhampton

4.8

There are also 78 local authorities where fewer than one in 10 pupils has been jabbed – including areas that have already seen some of the highest levels of educational disruption owing to Covid.

For example, Stoke-on-Trent and Medway, where only 58 per cent of pupils were at school on an average Thursday in the last academic year, according to a separate Tes analysis of Department for Health data, have seen just 5.8 and 8.8 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds vaccinated respectively.

In Haringey, where attendance averaged 60 per cent, just 7 per cent of this age group have had their jab.

Mr Barton said: “The delays are concerning because we believe maximising the number of students who are vaccinated is the best way to bring levels of infection in schools under control.

He added: “We were pleased to see that the new education secretary and the health secretary had written a joint letter to parents encouraging them to get their children vaccinated but we now need to see the government providing urgent support to ensure the vaccinations teams are properly resourced to do their job in schools.”

‘Serious waste’

University of Cambridge mathematician Sarah Rasmussen, who has studied the Covid impact on children, ran a recent Twitter poll asking teachers in England about the vaccination rollout in their own schools.

Out of 811 respondents who provided answers, 9 per cent said 12- to 15-year-olds had been jabbed in September, 31 per cent said vaccinations were scheduled for before the October half-term, while the biggest proportion (60 per cent) said they were scheduled for later or not scheduled at all.

Criticising the pace of the programme, she said: "If jabs are rolled out so slowly that the target group nearly all gets infected pre-jab, that’s a big decrease in overall vaccine benefit – a serious waste.”

 

However, in areas such as Wokingham, in Berkshire, more than a quarter of 12- to 15-year-olds have been vaccinated.

Areas in England with biggest uptake of 12-15 vaccine

Local authority            12-15 vaccine uptake (%)

Wokingham

30.1

Windsor and Maidenhead

25.3

Derbyshire

24.2

Hertfordshire

23.3

Isle of Wight

23.2

West Berkshire

21.7

Oxfordshire

21.2

Southampton

20.7

Thurrock

20.7

Shropshire

20.5

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The NHS is working closely with schools to offer vaccines to young people as soon as consent is obtained from parents or guardians.

“Every secondary school has been contacted by local NHS teams to arrange how and when visits to offer vaccinations to pupils aged 12 to 15 can take place.

“Vaccines are safe, will protect young people from Covid-19 and prevent further disruption to education. We urge everyone to get their jabs as soon as possible.”

The Department for Education was also contacted for comment.

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Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry is deputy news editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @CharlotteSantry

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