Stuttering start for Covid jabs for teenagers across region

Urban areas of the West Midlands are floundering in efforts to get schoolchildren aged 12 to 15 vaccinated.

Teenagers started receiving Covid jabs last month
Teenagers started receiving Covid jabs last month

While Shropshire, Telford and Worcestershire are among the top regions in England, the Black Country is towards the bottom.

But all areas are way behind Scotland, where up to half of 12 to 15-year-olds are now protected with their first jab.

Figures locally range from 28 per cent of children protected in Shropshire down to only seven per cent in Wolverhampton and even less in Stoke-on-Trent. Nationally, take-up of a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine among young teenagers is below 10 per cent in just over a third of the main local authorities in England, latest estimated figures show.

In some areas the rate is as low as five per cent, while Shropshire is one of only 15 authorities to have managed to give a first jab to at least a quarter of 12 to 15-year-olds.

The picture is very different in Scotland, where take-up is already over 50 per cent in half of local authority areas.

First doses of the Covid-19 vaccine began to be rolled out to all the UK’s 3.2 million 12 to 15-year-olds nearly a month ago.

But figures for England and Scotland – the two nations currently publishing daily statistics on take-u – show wide variations across the countries.

Vaccination figures for 12-15-year-olds up to October 19

Analysis of Government data for vaccinations delivered up to October 16 shows that, in 55 of the 149 upper tier local authorities in England, or 37 per cent of the total, fewer than one in 10 children aged 12 to 15 are estimated to have received a first dose.

Barking & Dagenham has the lowest take-up at 3.5 per cent, followed by Newham and Lewisham at both 5.2 per cent, all of which are in London. The worst area of the West Midlands and Staffordshire is Stoke-on-Trent at 6.2 per cent.

In England, jabs are being carried out in schools by nurses and immunisation teams. Most children in the West Midlands will have received an invitation for a Covid jab by the end of this week, but the programme will not start in earnest until after half term.

By contrast, in Scotland, doses can be received by attending drop-in vaccination centres at GP clinics, pharmacies and at sessions in community centres.

Wokingham in Berkshire has the highest take-up at 36.2 per cent and is the only area currently above 33 per cent, followed by Derbyshire, Hertfordshire and Warrington, all at 29.1 per cent.

In comparison, in Scotland, 16 of the 32 local authority areas have now given a first dose to at least 50 per cent of all 12 to 15-year-olds, with Dumfries & Galloway recording the highest take-up at 62.9 per cent.

Take-up among 12 to 15-year-olds for the whole of Scotland now stands at 46.5 per cent, compared with just 15.0 per cent in England.

First doses of Covid-19 vaccine for young teenagers are being delivered in different ways in the two nations.

Take-up is also likely to have been affected by the level of infection circulating in the community.

A first dose of vaccine cannot be delivered to someone if they are within four weeks of testing positive for Covid-19, waiting for the results of a coronavirus test, or self-isolating.

Around one in 10 children in England in school years 7 to 11 were likely to have tested positive for Covid-19 in the week to October 9 – the highest rate for any age group – according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

But while the overall prevalence of Covid-19 in England has risen to around one in 60 people in private households – near levels seen at the peak of the second wave of the virus – in Scotland the estimate has been falling for several weeks and currently stands at one in 80.

Shropshire is in the top 10 for teenage vaccination rates

In a joint letter to parents of secondary school and college pupils last week, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Health Secretary Sajid Javid asked for parents’ “support” to encourage their children to test themselves for Covid-19 twice a week and to “come forward” for the jab to ensure face-to-face lessons can continue.

“This is one of the best things young people can do to protect themselves and those around them,” the letter said.

“Vaccines are our best defence against Covid-19. They help protect young people, and benefit those around them. Vaccination makes people less likely to catch the virus and less likely to pass it on.”

Today’s figures are for England and Scotland.

Separate figures published by Public Health Wales show that as of October 10, Neath Port Talbot was the only local authority in Wales where fewer than 10 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds had received one dose of vaccine (7.4 per cent).

All other local authorities were above 10 per cent, ranging from Gwynedd (10.2 per cent) to Merthyr Tydfil (48.5 per cent).

The overall take-up for Wales as of October 10 was 21.8 per cent.

Northern Ireland has yet to begin publishing vaccination figures for 12 to 15-year-olds.

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