Schools could open vaccination clinics for teens, SAGE member suggests

1 July 2021, 17:19 | Updated: 1 July 2021, 17:20

If approved, children could get their jabs in school vaccine clinics.
If approved, children could get their jabs in school vaccine clinics. Picture: PA

By Emma Soteriou

Schools could hold vaccination clinics for young people to help get jabs in more people's arms, a member of SAGE has suggested.

Government advisor Professor Russell Viner said a school-based programme would be most effective in the rollout of the jab, if the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided young people should get it.

"Schools are almost certainly the best platform to provide Covid vaccines to healthy teenagers, if and when a decision is made to do that," he said.

"Quite a lot of communication with parents will be important, both at a national level but also by schools and others who are providing the vaccines."

Read more: Education Secretary hopes to lift school bubble restrictions from 19 July

However, Prof Viner said there was not enough safety data on whether children should get the jab and the direct health benefit for them being vaccinated was low.

"The risk of coming into intensive care, so having severe disease, is about one in 50,000 - these events are exceptionally rare," he told a briefing hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine.

"This is about the balance of risks. The benefits to them (children) of being vaccinated, are very low, the risks are unclear."

Despite this, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people aged 12 and over.

Read more: UK regulator approves Pfizer vaccine for use in 12 to 15-year-olds

Prof Viner said that teens consenting to vaccines was an option moving forward, suggesting that those who are deemed competent and who are fully informed could "consent to taking treatment against the wishes of their parent".

However, he reiterated that principles would and should apply to vaccination only if the JCVI approved the use of jabs for children.

He went on to explain how information was unclear on the impact vaccinating teenagers could have.

There are a "whole series of unanswered questions about how high we need to get our teenage vaccination rates, if we do decide to vaccinate teenagers, to contribute to overall benefit to the population," he said.

"I'm hesitant to use the word herd immunity. But in terms of overall benefit to the population, I think it is unclear."

The expert said one of his "real concerns" was that, once all adults are jabbed, young people will "become the source of most infections to vulnerable adults".

"I think that's one of the reasons, in my mind, that we should think about vaccinating them," he said.