The Government should set up vaccination centres on university campuses across the country to ensure students are fully vaccinated at the start of the autumn term, leading institutions have said.
The Russell Group, which is traditionally the most selective institutions in the UK, has offered spaces and facilities on campuses for vaccines to ensure a smooth start to the next academic year.
Increasing capacity in university towns and cities through dedicated NHS vaccination centres could help encourage more students to get their second dose as the demand from vaccination sites near to students’ family homes this summer shifts to those near to their university in the autumn.
It could also help relieve the burden on vaccination centres serving local residents, the universities say.
Top universities have written to the Government to call for pop-up vaccination sites to be set up on campuses through university partnerships with clinical commissioning groups and public health teams.
A number of medical, nursing and other healthcare students at Russell Group universities are working as vaccinators in existing NHS vaccination centres, so establishing campus-based vaccination clinics could draw on these existing arrangements and relationships, according to the group of leading universities.
The University of Birmingham will run a vaccination centre on campus next week for students, in partnership with local GPs and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.
The site, which is being hosted in a marquee on the campus, has the capacity to vaccinate more than 1,000 people a day using the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.
Last week, the vaccination programme opened to all adults in England. The Government aims to offer a first dose to all 18-year-olds and above by July 19.
But for some undergraduate students, they will not be able to receive their second dose until September when many universities will begin to reopen.
Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, told the PA news agency: “Russell Group universities have been at the centre of efforts to develop life-saving vaccines and they are ready to play a full role in ensuring students can quickly and easily access jabs when the autumn term begins.
“All of our universities have worked with local NHS services and public health authorities throughout the pandemic to protect students and their local communities. A number are already involved directly in the vaccination programme.”
He added: “We know we are now in a situation where it’s a race between vaccinations and variants.
“Universities have the resources and expertise to help ensure this is a race the UK can win ahead of an expected winter wave of infections.
“This is not only about giving universities the best chance to ensure students have as much face-to-face teaching as possible from September – it’s also about protecting staff and local communities by reducing the spread of Covid-19.”
An NHS spokeswoman said: “The NHS is already administering vaccines at some universities, including Canterbury, York and Sheffield, and local NHS areas will continue to organise pop-up and walk-in clinics to ensure students can receive their jab in a convenient location.”