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BOOSTING UPTAKE: Headteacher on 15% pupil vaccine uptake

BOOSTING UPTAKE: Headteacher on 15% pupil vaccine uptake

James Andriot, Principal of Excelsior Academy in Newcastle's West End, Image: NCJ Media

The head of the first school in the North East where 12 to 15-year-olds were offered a Covid vaccine says he is “confident” of boosting uptake, after just 15% received a jab.

Concerns were aired this week about a massive gap in the number of schoolchildren being vaccinated in deprived parts of Newcastle compared to affluent areas, where up to 82% of youngsters have been given a dose.

It has been confirmed that the school with the lowest figure of 15% was Excelsior Academy, in the West End, which was where the region’s rollout of jabs to that age group began in September.

James Andriot, principal of the Scotswood school, said he did not think that the low uptake was down to families “being belligerent or disaffected, or that the school is only talking to affluent pupils”.

During a Q&A about vaccinations on the Newcastle Chronicle’s Facebook page, he added: “I think what happens echoes the adult picture, which is that people need to take time to look and consider the information.

“It is not a snap decision for a lot of families and individuals. I am confident that in another offer we might double thatr 15% or go above that, it just takes time.

“It would be wrong to be derogatory or look down on people not making that choice straight away.”

Prof Neil Watson, who runs the Covid Vaccination Programme in the North East, confirmed that the school would receive a second visit from immunisers and that its community “deserves some additional work and support to increase that vaccination rate”.

The health chief said that the notice given to Excelsior parents to consent to having their children jabbed was “shorter than we would have liked” and that the school is in a “more challenging” part of the city in terms of vaccination rates.

However, he added that every school visited since has had a “much higher uptake rate”, and that around 50 to 60% is “closer to the norm”.

Mr Andriot said that it was “a win” to have even 15% of pupils protected against the virus for now, after 18 months of major disruption to their education during the pandemic.

He added: “We need the young people to be in school having missed eight months of face to face learning between March 2020 and July 2020, then between Janaury and March 2021 with the two lockdowns that affected a lot of young people.

“Yes it was 15% in the first go at Excelsior, but I am hoping that is 15% we are going to protect their education and keep them in school. For me, that is everything.”

Lorna Smith, Newcastle’s deputy public health director, told viewers that it was too early yet to judge the impact of the school vaccination programme on virus transmission rates and pupil absences, though Mr Andriot said his “gut instinct” was that it had improved the situation at Excelsior.

 

Words: Daniel Holland, Local Demcoracy Reporter


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