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London children receiving their Covid vaccine at school

·3-min read
Vaccine is rolled out to pupils aged 12-15 here at Villiers School in Southall, west London (Nigel Howard)
Vaccine is rolled out to pupils aged 12-15 here at Villiers School in Southall, west London (Nigel Howard)

London schoolchildren began receiving their Covid jab on Tuesday as teachers and health chiefs hailed an "amazing" take-up rate.

About 800 of the 1,000 eligible pupils aged 12-15 at Villiers High School in Southall have consented to be vaccinated, with the first 200 receiving the single dose of Pfizer.

Malaika Khalid, 12, was the first pupil to be jabbed. Asked if it hurt, she said: "Kind of."

She told the Standard she had been nervous about receiving the vaccine but was keen to avoid having to return to online learning. "I’m a bit concerned about the side-effects," she said.

First in class: Malaika Khalid becomes the first London pupil to be vaccinated against covid in the universal 12-15 cohort (Nigel Howard)
First in class: Malaika Khalid becomes the first London pupil to be vaccinated against covid in the universal 12-15 cohort (Nigel Howard)

"I was talking to my mum and my dad about how scared I was. At the same time I’m also excited. I’m excited for my arm to stop hurting.

"It’s going to protect you from Covid. It’s like a bodyguard, the vaccine."

Villiers headteacher Aruna Sharma said she was surprised at the take-up rate, having expected only 50 per cent to say yes. The school is based in a deprived, ethnically diverse area.

"I think it is really positive," she said. "It busts the myth about BAME communities not being in favour of getting the vaccine, to a certain extent.

"I expected a mixed reaction but I’m delighted with the uptake. I think a lot of parents want to make sure that their children are protected and they can continue with their learning. They have had two years of disrupted learning. They want their children to attend school.

"If this programme helps them to have some kind of normality, I think that is probably the main factor that will convince them."

Pippa Nightingale, chief nurse for north-west London NHS, said the secondary school roll-out was the "key final cog" in the vaccination programme.

"Vaccinating children in this age group is instrumental in preventing transmission and preventing us going back into lockdown.

"For these children, they have had so much disruption. It will stop children having to isolate and stop children having to be pinged and allow them a full year of education without interruption."

Vaccinators will be at Villiers for two days this week and two next week. Jabs are also being given at a school in Westminster on Wednesday as the NHS tests its systems before expanding the roll-out across the capital’s schools.

The North West London NHS, which covers eight boroughs, has to reach 360 schools. The aim is to offer all 93,000 children in the region - and more widely across the country - a jab before the school half-term holidays at the end of October.

Many of the younger children coming forward for the jab said they were in a minority in their class. However it is understood this is because some classmates are aged 11 and too young to be vaccinated at present.

Amin Hamed, 12, receives the Pfizer jab at school (Nigel Howard)
Amin Hamed, 12, receives the Pfizer jab at school (Nigel Howard)

Amin Hamed, 12, said he knew "straight away" that he wanted the vaccine. "It felt a little bit sore but now I know that my friends and I are safer," he said.

"My mum really said that I should get it. My dad disagreed at first, but then he agreed. I think the vaccine will be good for your health and it won’t interfere with your learning."

Almost three million children in the 12-15 age group are eligible for one dose of Pfizer after the Government’s acceptance of the four UK Chief Medical Officers’ advice last week to proceed. It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said there were only marginal benefits of vaccinating the cohort.

Children aged 12 to 15 with health conditions that put them at increased risk from Covid, as well as those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed, are eligible for two doses of Pfizer.

Schools seek consent from parents for vaccinating 12-15s. If a child wants the vaccine without parental consent, the child and parent will be invited for a joint discussion with a clinician or healthcare professional, who can make a decision about whether the child is legally competent to make decisions about their healthcare.

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