Children say they are “excited” to get vaccinated as vulnerable five to 11-year-olds become eligible for their first Covid-19 jab.
Parents and children arriving at Emberbrook Community Centre for Health in Thames Ditton, Surrey, at the weekend were among those pleased with the rollout.
Joseph Aquilina, 45, a neurodiversity consultant from Thames Ditton, welcomed the “lucky” opportunity for his son Xavier, 11, to be vaccinated.
Xavier, who has benign rolandic epilepsy, said: “It is exciting to be able to be less vulnerable.”
Asked what message he would give to other children about the vaccine, he added: “It is not as stressful as you may think, everyone here is quite nice and you get a sticker at the end.”
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Mr Aquilina said his son “knows that we need to protect ourselves and everyone else around us so he decided himself to do it”.
He added that it was “lucky” that children most at risk can now be protected compared with other countries but added: “It should have been much done earlier.”
Joseph Todd, director of the vaccination centre at Emberbrook, one of 850 sites vaccinating the cohort, said the practice expects to vaccinate about 200 children in the group in the few next weeks.
He said: “It is so important because these children are kept isolated at home away from their friends and school because the risk of getting to Covid to them is severe.
“Without the vaccine, they are at higher risk because of the conditions they’ve got or they also might bring Covid home to their parents or family members who are vulnerable.
“It limits their social contact, it limits their ability to go to school in some cases, and it limits their freedom.
“So I would encourage all the children who fit in this category to be brought forward by their parents.
“It’s a nice environment with specialist nurses and trained vaccinators to look after them.”
Eligible children, who includes those with diabetes, learning disabilities or immunosuppression, are being offered two 10mcg Pfizer doses eight weeks apart – a third of the amount used for adults.
The NHS said local health care teams are already getting in touch with those who are eligible and that parents should wait to be contacted when it is their child’s turn.
It comes two weeks after the vaccine programme was expanded so all 16 and 17-year-olds could have a booster.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, said: “We know vaccines give significant protection against severe illness from Covid – including the Omicron variant – so it is important that our youngest and most at-risk get protected.
“The NHS is now vaccinating the most at risk five to 11-year-olds, ensuring they get their vital dose of protection.
“Thousands of young people are still getting protected every day with millions vaccinated so far, and we are asking parents not to delay coming forward – as soon as the NHS contacts you, please come forward so the NHS can protect their youngest against the virus.”