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Clinically vulnerable children start to receive vaccine invites

The NHS has written to local health networks asking that clinically vulnerable children* receive their Covid-19 vaccine before school starts in September. The NHS is trying to get Covid vaccination invitations out to eligible 12-15 year olds by 23 August.

As well as encouraging GPs to identify patients, the NHS asks local practices to consider self-referrals from parents of children and from health trusts.

*Clinically vulnerable children clarified
The government has updated its Green Book guidance with more detailed information about which children aged 12-15 are eligible for a Covid vaccine. It had previously agreed to follow advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation to offer jabs to children with severe neurodisabilities, Down syndrome, immunosuppression, and severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).

The Green Book has now clarified what constitutes each of these categories:

  • Severe neuro-disability and/or neuromuscular conditions that compromise respiratory function. This includes conditions (such as cerebral palsy, autism and muscular dystrophy) that may affect swallowing and protection of the upper airways, leading to aspiration, and reduce the ability to cough and resulting overall in increased susceptibility to respiratory infections
  • Children with a learning disability, including individuals with Down syndrome, those who are on the GP Learning Disability Register, and those with PMLD or severe learning disabilities
  • Children who are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment, including patients undergoing chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy; solid organ transplant recipients; bone marrow or stem cell transplant recipients; kids with HIV infections at all stages; those with genetic disorders affecting the immune system; children receiving immunosuppressive biological therapy or those treated with systemic steroids for more than a month; and anyone with a history of haematological malignance, including leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, or auto-immune diseases that may require long-term immunosuppressive treatments.

Children aged 12 and above who live with immunosuppressed individuals of any age will also qualify for a vaccine.

What should I do if I think my child is eligible for a vaccine?

If you haven’t heard anything by the 23 August, you should contact your GP or clinician and ask them to arrange a vaccine for your child. If you are unsure if your child is eligible for a vaccine you should discuss this with their GP or clinician. GPs and clinicians are advised to use their clinical judgement when deciding if a child is at increased risk and therefore eligible for a vaccine.

Read more about the COVID vaccine for children and young people on our FAQ page. 

How things are working locally

GPs in some areas have signed up to deliver the Covid vaccine to children and young people via their primary care network (PCNs), but in other areas the GPs have ‘opted out’. But even GPs ‘opting out’ of vaccinating children must still search their records to identify eligible children and pass this information on to the local health trust or commissioners to arrange appointments. They have been told to do this “soon as possible”.

Contact, the charity for families with disabled children has produced some frequently asked questions about latest JCVI guidance on Covid-19 vaccines for children which you may find helpful.