Great Britain
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Tens of thousands of children book online to get Covid jabs

Tens of thousands of children have been booked in for a Covid vaccine since an online booking system opened up to 12 to 15-year-olds just days ago.

This age cohort has been eligible to get a jab since last month, with this rollout mostly focused in schools in its initial few weeks.

Since Friday, parents of children aged between 12 and 15 have been able to use an online booking system to book them in for a vaccine at local sites.

In just four days, more than 80,000 children in that age range have secured an appointment for a Covid jab through that system.

On Monday alone, nearly 33,000 bookings were made for 12 to 15-year-olds this way, NHS England said.

The government had faced calls to allow children to get jabbed in vaccination centres as well as schools to accelerate what had been called an “incredibly slow” rollout for their age range.

Announcing the National Booking Service would open up to younger teenagers, NHS England said the move would “provide an additional option” for parents to book their child a vaccine on top of the schools programme - which had vaccinated nearly half a million children as of last Friday.

The new option will allow children to get vaccinated during the half-term break, NHS England said.

“It’s right that families who want to get their child the jab are able to do so as quickly as possible,” Paul Whiteman from the school leaders’ union NAHT said. “It’s important that the in-school vaccination programme is still given full support in order to keep the momentum up after half term.”

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said allowing parents and guardians to book jabs for children at local vaccination sites was “making it easier and more convenient for everyone to secure this important protection ahead of the winter months”.

“The vaccines are safe and help keep children in the classroom so they can learn and spend time with their friends,” he added.

Earlier this month, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged the rollout for younger teenagers to encompass “community pharmacy and vaccination centres to drive up vaccination rates”.

Schools told The Independent in early October they had not started their jab rollouts, despite younger children being eligible since 20 September.

Maggie Throup, the vaccines minister, said it was “fantastic progress” that 80,000 children had secured a vaccine appointment through the online booking system since it opened to them on Friday.

“I urge as many people as possible to come forward for a jab as soon as they can,” she added.

Dr Nikki Kanani, the deputy lead for the NHS vaccine programme, said: “The NHS is making it as easy as possible for parents to get their child protected this half-term, with tens of thousands of young people booking in online with their families so far.

“It’s really important that we keep that momentum going if we want to ensure children get to stay in the classroom with their classmates this winter so if you’re thinking about getting your child vaccinated, I would encourage you to head online and look at the information.”

Additional reporting by Press Association