Covid vaccines open for 5-11-year olds in England
Parents and carers of children aged between five and 11 years will be able to book a COVID-19 vaccine for them in England from Saturday.
The country's National Health Service (NHS) opened bookings as part of its next phase of COVID-19 vaccine rollout, with appointments available at hundreds of sites starting on Monday.
The NHS said it is making the vaccine available for the age group following updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommended all children would benefit from a non-urgent offer of the vaccine, making almost 5 million eligible for the latest rollout.
From today, parents of almost 5 million 5- to 11-year-olds can book their little ones in for a vaccine, ensuring they get their first dose of protection and helping to protect against potential future waves of COVID-19, said Dr Nikki Kanani, the Indian-origin deputy lead for the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.
Vaccines remain the best defence we have against the virus my 13-year-old son has had his two vaccinations and I'll be booking my 10-year old daughter in for hers at the earliest opportunity, and would encourage all parents to read the NHS information available and consider doing the same, she said.
The NHS said it has already been vaccinating children aged five to 11 years who have medical conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 or who live with someone with a weakened immune system, and more than three in five 12 to 15-year-olds have also come forward for a jab.
Most appointments for this age group will be available at local vaccination centres or community pharmacies outside of school hours.
Parents, if they want, can take up the offer for their children to increase protection against COVID as we learn to live with this virus, said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
Children without underlying health conditions are at low risk of serious illness from COVID and the priority remains for the NHS to offer vaccines and Spring boosters to adults and vulnerable young people, as well as to catch up with other childhood immunisation programmes, he said.
The NHS said it will also be sending invitations to parents and guardians of eligible children throughout the next few weeks to let them know they can now book in for a vaccine and some people will be invited by their general practitioner (GP).
Under the JCVI advice, all children aged between five to 11 will be offered two 10 microgram doses, a third of the strength given to all over the age of 12, of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses; or eight weeks for children who have medical conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 or who live with someone with a weakened immune system.
Families will be given a vaccination record card once their child has been vaccinated, with the name of the vaccine, batch number and the date the vaccine was given.
The latest expansion comes as official figures show that a record 4.9 million people in the UK have coronavirus, up from 4.3 million the week before. The figures come during a week when access to free lateral flow tests ended for most people in England as part of the government's living with COVID strategy.