Covid-19: NHS responds to low vaccine uptake among children aged 5 to 11 in Bristol

Despite children aged between five and 11 being invited for vaccines on April 4, low numbers have shown up for the jabs

Fewer than one in 15 children (5.6%) aged between five and 11 in Bristol have been vaccinated against Covid-19, despite the programme opening at the beginning of April.

The rate is similar to across England - 5% - and shows a reluctance among parents toward immunising their children against the virus, while the public health messaging has been far more muted than the adult vaccination programme.

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The virus usually has a mild effect in children and NHS England said vaccination is a “personal choice” for families to make.

NHS England data shows 2,139 children aged between five and 11 in Bristol were vaccinated as of April 24, representing 5.6% of the age group. Vaccinations opened for the age group on April 4.

Six per cent of children aged between five and 11 have received the first vaccine in Bristol

Low take-up rates may be linked to vaccine hesitancy. Earlier this year the Office for National Statistics found that parents living with children under five were more likely to be vaccine hesitant than non-parents or parents not living with a dependent child.

Many children have also already had Covid-19 - around 85% in the UK were thought to have had the virus by the end of January, according to estimates by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

What is being done to encourage uptake?

Rachel Spiers, Immunisation and Vaccination Programme Manager at the Public Health Agency, said there are several possible reasons for the lower vaccination rate in children.

Ms Spiers said: “For example, parents of children who have already had Covid-19 may feel that their children don’t need the vaccine. However, vaccination is one of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill-health.

“Even if your child has already had Covid-19, it is still important to get them vaccinated, as being fully-vaccinated can offer them the best protection from the virus and severe disease, as we have seen that it can be possible to develop Covid-19 more than once.”

A spokesperson for NHS England added: “Getting vaccinated is a personal choice between families and their children, and we have now sent invites to everyone eligible, including to the parents of one million children aged 5 and 6 last week – with people able to book an appointment via the National Booking System.”

How does Bristol compare to neighbouring authorities?

In Bath and North East Somerset, 6.6% of children aged between five and 11 are vaccinated, in South Gloucestershire that rate rises to 7.2%.

While in North Somerset, the rate stands at 5.5%.

The local authority with the lowest uptake in the South West is Stroud, with 4.8% of children aged between five and 11 vaccinated. Cheltenham has the highest rate, 13.4%.