In autumn 2021, all children aged 12 to 15 in Cornwall will be offered both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine. The flu vaccination programme already includes all children in primary schools and is being expanded this year to include older children.
Children aged 12-15 will also be offered one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
This significant expansion in the school immunisation programme is part of the government’s wider winter planning to reduce flu levels in the population, and therefore the potential impact on the NHS, when we are likely to see both flu and coronavirus (COVID-19) in circulation. In our area, the School Immunisation Service is provided by Kernow Health CIC.
Most vaccinations will be given in a school setting, and we will also provide community clinics for young people who are unable to attend school-based clinics, due to absence from school, refusing on the day or for those who are home educated. Parents/carers will be sent a letter from Kernow Health CIC via the child’s school or by post if home educated.
The letters include information about the vaccines, the importance of immunisation, a link to an online consent form and a unique school code. All vaccines have separate consent forms, including those for flu and COVID-19.
If parents/carers 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.
The NHS expect to have completed the programme before the end of the autumn term.
Ilness on the day of vaccination
The NHS will be holding a series of community clinics. Appointments can be made for any eligible child who misses the COVID vaccine on the day of our visit to the school, or for home educated children.
Anyone who is unable to attend the vaccination session at their school will be able to have the COVID-19 and/or flu in one of these clinics. These community clinics also include access to flu, HPV and a small number of DTP/MenACWY vaccinations.
The NHS will provide information about how to book an appointment nearer the time.
Type of vaccine given
In our area, the NHS team will be using the Pfizer vaccine (licensed under the name Comirnaty) for children aged 12 to 15 and they will be given one dose. If a second dose is recommended in future, parents/carers will be asked to complete another consent form.
If a parent objects to having the flu vaccine on the grounds of the porcine gelatine content, an alternative flu vaccine will be offered via the School Immunisation Service, which would be given by an injection to the upper arm
Why only one dose?
For most children and young people COVID-19 is usually a milder 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.
Risks of receiving the wrong vaccine
The flu and COVID-19 vaccinations will have separate consent forms. Although the vaccines will be administered at the same time, the flu vaccine is given to children as a nasal spray. There are a small number of children for whom the nasal spray is not suitable, this can be offered as an injection.
What happens if parent/carers don’t give consent
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.