Teenagers aged 16 and 17 in North Yorkshire are being urged to get vaccinated against Covid “as soon as possible” ahead of the return to school and college next week.
Those who fall into this age group were first offered a vaccine dose last month, but unlike others no second jab is being scheduled.
The government set a target of offering everyone aged 16 and 17 their first dose or the chance to book one by 23 August, and Louise Wallace, director of public health for North Yorkshire, said they should now take up the opportunity “as soon as possible”.
Speaking at a meeting of the county’s Local Resilience Forum today, she said: “The key message does remain the same for everyone across the county who is eligible for a vaccine to come forward. It is still the best form of protection.
“If you are 16 or 17 years of age, please come forward and get vaccinated as soon as possible – and ideally before you go back to school.”
Her calls come as the NHS has begun drawing up plans for a possible extension of the vaccination programme to all 12 to 15-year-olds.
However, experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have yet to make a final decision on whether it should go ahead – and there are national reports that they may opt against it because of fears it could disrupt the programme of boosters for older people.
Separately, and unlike previous school terms, distancing rules, ‘bubble’ groups and staggered starts have now been scrapped, although ventilation measures and extra hygiene precautions will still be in place.
All secondary pupils are also being urged to get tested either at school or in the community before term starts. After that, pupils will be encouraged to carry on with the twice-weekly testing regime in order to keep cases under control.
Ms Wallace said it was “massively” important that pupils now made a return to school as she also thanked staff and parents for their support over the course of the pandemic.
She said: “It has been a challenging 18 months for our education settings. All our colleagues in education have worked really hard, as well as pupils and their families.
“I want to say thank you for everything that everybody has done so far to try and stop the spread of the virus.
“It is really important that young people do go back to school so we are supporting them through this next stage of living with Covid.
“All schools and colleges are advised to keep continuing with regular hand washing, cleaning regimes and keeping spaces well ventilated.
“And of course, we will give support from a local public health perspective to any school or college if they see a spike in cases.”