Monday, November 29, 2021

Families traveling up to 50 miles to have children vaccinated

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Families across England had to travel up to 50 miles to get their children vaccinated in walk-in centers due to a lack of local opportunities.

The government recently made the sites accessible to 12-15 year olds due to the slow rate of adoption of the Covid vaccine in schools.

More than 80,000 children in this age group have booked an appointment since last Friday, though some don’t have access to nearby centers, parents claim.

While more than 2,000 vaccination centers have been set up across England, many are not yet authorized to vaccinate children under the age of 16. As a result, some families are turning to licensed sites up to 50 miles away or have to wait for their child to be vaccinated through the school vaccination program, which in parts of the country is hampered by a lack of trained vaccinees and logistical complications.

Rachel, from Carlisle, took her son to a location in Newcastle more than 50 miles away for a piercing due to the lack of local centers in her area.

“Now I can afford to take my child there and have the transportation and the free time because it’s six months and I’m a school staff,” she said. “However, there will be many who cannot, and my son’s school has not yet accepted the vaccine team.”

She said she saw another student from her son’s school in Carlisle attending the same center in Newcastle.

Another Yorkshire Dales mother said she had booked an appointment for her 12-year-old son at a location 40 miles away next week. “The problem is that the centers are not open when the NHS website says so,” she added.

Other families from Essex, Salisbury and Dorset have reported similar problems from being unable to use nearby centers to vaccinate their children.

“Both of my children are keen on the vaccine, but there are no local clinics that take the children,” said a parent from Poole. “The Isle of Wight was offered to us online as our closest. That’s a 120-mile round-trip ferry ride. “

By October 25, 21.3 percent of children aged 12 to 15 in England had received the Covid vaccine. The rollout is still lagging behind the Scottish program, which vaccinated 53.1 percent of this age group.

Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College England, said families’ inability to access local vaccination centers “shows that the government often makes announcements without giving the NHS time to plan”.

“In this case, they have opened Covid-19 vaccination centers to children – but since these centers have previously vaccinated people over the age of 16, they may not have vaccinees on site who are authorized to vaccinate children.

“If there was enough time, this problem could have been resolved to make sure the vaccination clinics had the right vaccines.”

He said England’s general vaccine program had slowed “significantly” in recent months and “performed much better at the beginning of the year when GP-run sites were providing most of the vaccinations”.

Prof. Majeed added, “The government and the NHS England need to put aside the contrasting approach they have taken with GPs and work with them to ensure we have an efficient Covid-19 vaccination program.”

The NHS has said the school vaccination program remains the key way to push young children against Covid rather than running centers.

Millions of parents are receiving letters this week asking their children to get a vaccine through the national booking service.

An NHS spokesman said: “When the vaccine was introduced into schools, around half a million have been vaccinated, and just days after it became more widespread in local vaccination centers for this cohort, thousands of parents are signing up every day to book their child leave for the life saving vaccine.

“As the rollout expands, more websites will come online to vaccinate this cohort and vaccinate their children outside of school hours.”

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