Health officials are urging parents to put coronavirus vaccine protection at the top of their back-to-school checklist – along with the new shoes, pencil cases and PE kits.
Schools across the region will start to return after the summer holidays from next week, and mums and dads are being urged to make sure their child is protected against the virus before heading back to class.
Currently, all children who celebrate their fifth birthday on or before Wednesday 31 August are eligible for two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The vaccination offer for children applies to all five to 16-year-olds, with those aged 17 and over becoming eligible for the adult vaccination course, which includes a third booster dose.
Getting vaccinated before the new school term not only reduces the likelihood of the virus spreading in the classroom, but also allows parents to make the most of the current good appointment availability at the region’s many vaccination clinics.
Gill May, Chief Nurse, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board, said: “Thankfully, Covid-19 numbers have been falling over the last few weeks, but we’re acutely aware that things could change when children return to the classrooms.
“The best way to keep the virus from spreading, especially among children who will soon be in close contact with others for large parts of the day, is to make sure that any young person who is still to be vaccinated gets the jab as quickly as possible.
“Education is such an important part of every child’s development, and the Covid-19 vaccine is a tried and tested and, above all else, completely safe intervention that can go a long way to ensuring that children’s time in school is not disrupted.”
Although most children only need two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, given approximately 12 weeks apart, to achieve full protection, some young people will require more.
Those aged between 12 and 15 years old are eligible for a booster dose three months after having their second vaccine, while children aged five and over who have a severely weakened immune system will need a third primary jab, before then requiring a booster.
Vaccines for children remain available at local vaccination centres, including the larger sites at Bath Racecourse, the Steam Museum in Swindon and Salisbury City Hall.
In addition, Covid-19 vaccines can also be given at more local venues, including those based in pharmacies, community buildings and GP practices.
Parents can find their nearest vaccine centre, as well as book their child a vaccination appointment, via the NHS website, which can be accessed at http://www.nhs.uk.
More information about the local rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, including details of the upcoming autumn booster programme for adults over the age of 50, can be found at http://www.bsw.icb.nhs.uk.