Region set to 'make up lost ground' in teen jabs drive, say MPs

Opening up vaccination centres to 12 to 15-year-olds will be a key move in helping the region “make up lost ground” in its jabs drive, MPs have said.

Health chiefs in the Black Country are hoping to ramp up the vaccine rollout for youngsters
Health chiefs in the Black Country are hoping to ramp up the vaccine rollout for youngsters

Health chiefs were on Friday preparing to announce plans for walk-in vaccination centres across the Black Country to open up to youngsters ahead of half-term.

It is part of a plan to ramp up the region’s vaccination programme for the age group, which has fallen behind other parts of the country according to figures released this week.

It is understood the scheme could start as early as Saturday, with parents and eligible teenagers able to book vaccinations or turn up at walk-in centres. Plans are also in place for thousands of invitation letters to be sent out to households across the Black Country and West Birmingham CCG area.

Up to now 12 to15-year-olds have only been able to get the Covid jab in schools.

Earlier this week NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the national booking service would be opening up for young teenagers as part of plans to offer “additional capacity for kids” at existing vaccination centres.

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi has backed the move. He said: “It is an important step. I think the data shows that we are behind the curve and this can certainly help us to make up lost ground.

“Opening it up in as many avenues as possible – and giving people the choice of where and when they can get vaccinated – is a key part of us getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.” Mr Longhi has also urged parents who do not want their children to be vaccinated to reconsider their decision.

“All the evidence shows that if children are vaccinated then they are far less likely to transmit it to one another, and to take it home to other people who are perhaps more vulnerable,” he said.

“The vaccine would not have been offered to children had it not been thoroughly tested. Lots of countries are doing it with seemingly good results.

“I would absolutely respect a parent’s choice if they were to decide it is not right for their child.

“But if people decide not to get vaccinated, I would encourage them to reconsider that position.”

Wolverhampton North East MP Jane Stevenson said it was “common sense” to make the vaccine as accessible as possible to young people, providing there was enough capacity and supply. She added: “We have seen with the booster jab, that people are not being offered it as soon as they would have liked, so anything that can speed up the process is welcome. Vaccines should be as accessible as possible so that all of those who have the chance to take one, can.

“The rate of infections is high, but hospitalisations are low. We want to keep it that way through the winter.” Health chiefs across the region have raised concerns over attempts to disrupt the vaccination programme for teenagers, with anti-vaxxers having turned up to protest outside schools in Walsall and Sandwell over the past week.

Analysis released this week based on Government figures suggests that less than one in 10 youngsters have been vaccinated across the Black Country and Birmingham.

Sally Roberts, Chief Nursing Officer for the Black Country and West Birmingham CCG, said: “I urge all families and young people to consider the offer of the vaccine and to take it up as soon as the rollout reaches their school.”

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