Health chiefs advised not to offer Covid-19 vaccines in primary schools across Dacorum

Using pharmacies and GPs would minimise disruption and avoid security issues, councillors told
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Questions have been raised about the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines to primary age children in Dacorum – following national advice to keep out of schools.

Health bosses overseeing Dacorum and the county as a whole have already started to offer the vaccine to children aged five to 11 who are deemed to be ‘at risk’ .

And from April they are expecting to roll-out the vaccine to the remaining 142,000 primary age children in Hertfordshire and West Essex.

Health bosses in the county have already started to offer the vaccine to children aged five to 11 who are deemed to be ‘at risk’Health bosses in the county have already started to offer the vaccine to children aged five to 11 who are deemed to be ‘at risk’
Health bosses in the county have already started to offer the vaccine to children aged five to 11 who are deemed to be ‘at risk’

At a meeting of the county’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Wednesday (16/3) it emerged children across Herts and West Essex were likely to have to visit one of five vaccination centres or a pharmacy – alongside some pop-up vaccination centres.

However, it was reported, that – so far – just five community pharmacists had expressed an interest in the vaccination programme.

And it was still to be decided whether GP surgeries would be used.

Nurses already visit schools to deliver some vaccinations – including the nasal flu spray in primary schools.

But, the board was told government guidelines had directed health chiefs to avoid plans to vaccinate in schools – to minimise disruption and avoid security issues.

However it stated plans for pop-up vaccination centres in school car parks during school holidays could be considered.

Cllr Teresa Heritage, the county council's executive member for children, families and young people, said: “It makes absolute sense to take over a school for a day and do the whole lot. I don’t understand why that is being poo-pooed nationally.”

Elliot Howard-Jones, chief executive of the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, said he was not sure he could answer to the logic of it.

But he accepted that there was ‘a disruption element’ when going into schools – particularly if going in to vaccinate only a small number of children.

And Beverley Flowers, director of integration and systems transformation for the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care System, said there was also an issue around parental consent – and schools not wanting to get involved.

And she said this was especially the case where they may be more than one parent involved in a child’s care.

Mr Howard-Jones said that Covid and levels of Covid vaccination had already increased levels of inequality in population groups that are already disadvantaged.

And he said that if children had to go to vaccination centres it was important to make that as accessible as possible – with as many other routes as possible.

Children aged between five and 11 who are at increased risk of Covid – or who live with someone who is immuno-suppressed – are already eligible for vaccination.

There are estimated to be 6000 in this group in Hertfordshire and West Essex. And since March 11 it is estimated that 10.4 per cent have received a first dose of the vaccine.

More generally it was reported that 3,069,478 doses of vaccine and 851,560 booster doses had been administered across Hertfordshire and West Essex But it was said that there was now a slowing of vaccine demand nationally.