Families want answers as to why vaccine roll-out delayed

3 mins read

Thursday 12 August 2021

Tags: covid, vaccination

We are urgently seeking more information from government on how eligible children aged 12-15 can get their vaccine in time for the start of the school term.

Families of clinically vulnerable children desperate for the vaccine contact us daily, upset and worried because they are yet to hear if or when their child will be vaccinated.

Amanda Elliot, Contact’s health lead, said it was totally unacceptable that clinically vulnerable children eligible for the vaccine have still not received their appointments for the first vaccine dose.

She said: “GPs and vaccination centres have been told to prioritise eligible children yet there is still no information out there for desperate families. All the clinical protocols are now in place, so what is causing this further delay? Many of these children have been shielding for 18 months, missing out on school and on seeing their friends. It now looks like they will be missing the start of another school year too.”

Why the delay?

More than 40,000 children aged 12-15 with severe neurodisability, Down syndrome, immunosuppression, or severe or profound learning disabilities are now eligible for a vaccine. Three weeks on from the announcement, we have still to hear of any eligible children being invited for their first vaccine dose.  

Where parents have taken the initiative and approached their GPs to find out how and when their child can be vaccinated, they were directed to contact NHS 119 who in turn have sent the parent back to their GP.

The vaccine minister has promised that eligible children will get their first dose before school starts. Yet it takes three weeks for immunity to build after the first vaccine dose. This latest delay in getting the vaccine to eligible children has added more layers of frustration and upset for families, and risks delaying their child’s return to school.

Shez from Liverpool is still shielding with her 12-year-old son who has a rare genetic condition, complex needs, severe developmental delays, autism, and many health conditions including epilepsy, microcephaly and chronic kidney disease. 

Shez said: “Covid has had a profound effect on our son’s mental health. We are in desperate need to access therapies, education and to see friends and family.

“I am extremely frustrated that my son is still waiting for a vaccine. Why would I sacrifice everything to shield my child for 18 months and then send them to school one week after having the vaccine when it takes at least 3 weeks for an immune response, and most parents would want them to have both vaccines before they go back to school to feel safe?”

What we have recently learnt

  • Guidance reported in the GP press makes it clear that GPs who signed up to deliver the Covid vaccines for earlier phases of the vaccine roll-out can now vaccinate eligible children.
  • These GPs can give the vaccine to children under the updated Patient Group Protocol, which now covers administering the Pfizer vaccine to children. However, these GPs have also been given until 13 August to opt out of administering the vaccine to children.
  • Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and GPs who opt out of providing Covid vaccinations to children are still required to be pull together lists of eligible children for local vaccination centres, but it appears no guidance has yet been published detailing how eligible children will be identified.