Huge gap in Covid vaccine uptake at Newcastle schools – with just 15% of kids jabbed in poorer areas

By Daniel Holland

Uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine among Newcastle schoolchildren is dramatically lower in the city’s poorer areas, worried health chiefs have revealed.

As little as 15% of eligible 12 to 15-year-olds in some deprived parts of the city have received a jab, among schools that have had a vaccine visit in the first few weeks of the rollout to that age group.

But schools in more affluent Newcastle neighbourhoods have seen up to 82% of youngsters vaccinated, the city council confirmed.

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Newcastle’s public health director has urged parents to give consent for their children to receive a vaccine, as government ministers also issued a similar plea.

Prof Eugene Milne said: “The vaccine remains by far the best defence in our battle against the virus, it is safe, effective and is already protecting millions of people across the country.

“Uptake on the vaccines in our schools – for eligible 12 to 15-year-olds – is reflecting the overall programme in many ways. Overall, 46% of pupils in schools who have hosted a vaccine visit have received their jabs.

"We are seeing a high uptake in school communities in the more affluent parts of the city with lower numbers in our more deprived neighbourhoods. Our provisional data shows that in some Newcastle schools up to 82% of eligible pupils have been vaccinated compared to just 15% elsewhere.

“The more people are vaccinated, the safer we all become, and we will continue to engage with the individual schools and communities to increase understanding of the vaccine and to increase consent and uptake.”

Local council and NHS bodies refused to confirm on Monday which schools in Newcastle or how many in total had been visited by Covid vaccinators so far.

Excelsior Academy, in the West End of the city, became the first school in the North East to offer vaccines to its 12 to 15-year-olds last month, after jabs were approved for that age group.

St Cuthbert’s High School, in Benwell, and Gosforth Academy are also among those to have had pupils vaccinated.

Prof Milne said that schools will receive a second round of vaccination visits in order to reach pupils who missed out the first time around.

He added: “We will continue to support the NHS in developing an expanded roll out for 12 to 15-year-olds. We have had great success by utilising our vaccine bus, community pharmacies and a rolling programme of pop-up clinics and we are confident this model would also be beneficial for our younger residents, as well as the school vaccine service.

“The benefits of the vaccine for all young people aged 12 to 15 for outweigh the risks, it will help prevent serious illness if they catch the virus and will also help reduce transmission in their household and community.”

Ministers also pleaded with parents to give consent for their children to be jabbed, after latest figures showed that around one in 15 children in school years 7 to 11 in England were estimated to have had coronavirus in the week to October 2.

Three million pupils aged between 12 and 15 across the UK are eligible to receive a first Covid-19 jab as part of a rollout that began three weeks ago.

In a joint letter to parents of secondary school and college pupils, the Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This is one of the best things young people can do to protect themselves and those around them.”

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