Health chiefs are urging parents to get their teenagers jabbed in a borough with one of the lowest vaccine rates in the country.
Levels across schools and colleges remain high in Lewisham, leading to high absence rates and putting children’s exam results and wellbeing at risk.
The NHS and Department for Education are launching a targeted push to use this half term to vaccinate 12-17 year olds and help bring these rates down.
Vaccinations are key to protecting young people from the impact of COVID-19 and helping to protect their education from further disruption, keeping their learning on track.
The drive comes as Lewisham has one of the lowest vaccination rates in England with just 35 per cent of 12-16 year olds vaccinated with the first dose and 44 per cent of 16-17 year olds.
The national average for first doses in England is 54.6 per cent for 12-15 year olds and 66.9 per cent for 16-17 year olds.
COVID-19 remains highly infectious and it continues to cause disruption to education with absence rates remaining high.
Vaccinating 12-17-year-olds can help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 within schools and colleges, lowering the chance of catching it, and the need to take time-off to recover from any illness, or in some cases, to recuperate from long COVID.
To help students who have missed out on learning because of Covid prepare for exams this summer, it’s more important than ever to maximize their time in college and school so they have support with learning and revision.
Having a COVID-19 vaccine also helps to reduce the risk of missing out on additional opportunities like school trips, plays, sports matches and cultural activities that benefit wider development.
With school attendance known to significantly boost wellbeing and reduce anxiety, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 also can help benefit young people’s mental health and welfare.
The government has made it as easy as possible to get a vaccine, including through ‘grab a jab’ pop-up vaccine sites across the country in locations such as football stadiums, at festivals, and in shopping centres.
Young people who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 need to wait 12 weeks after testing positive for Covid before they can get vaccinated but they are encouraged to book as soon as they can.
The Department for Education has recently announced a range of adaptations to exams this summer, including advanced information for most GCSEs, AS and A levels, to help students target revision so they can do themselves justice in their exams this summer.
Robin Walker, Schools Minister said: “As we recover from the pandemic, time out of the classroom creates wasted opportunities and can have real costs for pupils and their prospects.
Maximising time in school and college is important not only for students’ academic attainment and wider wellbeing, but especially crucial for those preparing for exams or assessments.
“Vaccines will help protect young people from COVID-19 and help prevent further disruption to learning. I urge secondary school and college students to get their jabs as soon as possible to stop Covid getting in the way of their education.”
NHS consultant paediatrician and TV presenter Dr Ranj said: “Keeping children and young people in education without disruption is vital to support our children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.
We know that if everyone does their bit and enough people, adults and children, are vaccinated, we can drive down rates of coronavirus across education settings.
Vaccination gives our children and young people the best possible chance of success.”