A UK government agency has advised headteachers to ask the police to help manage the situation if they believe protests could take place at their schools over their participation in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Ministers confirmed on Monday that children aged 12 to 15 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week.
In guidance published on Wednesday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told school authorities: “We know that some schools are receiving campaign letters and emails with misinformation about the vaccine programme and would like advice on how to handle protests in the event they were to take place at school.”
The agency said schools should get in touch with the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS) team at the first opportunity to understand “what security planning they have in place, and what if any actions they recommend you carry out ahead of vaccinations in your school.”
“In the event of a protest or disruptive activity outside a school, or if schools know a protest is planned, they should alert the SAIS provider, Local Authority, and police contacts to discuss the best way to manage the situation,” it recommended.
UKHSA also said it was aware some schools have received letters or emails which contain “false or misleading information” about the safety, efficacy, and purpose of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
It advised headteachers “not to engage directly” to the so-called “misinformation.” Instead, they are told to “acknowledge receipt of concerns” and “refer to the latest scientific guidance on the issue.”
The guidance confirms that children who are 12 or over on the day the SAIS team visits a school will be offered a vaccine, and the vaccines will be administered by healthcare staff working with the school.
The SAIS provider will seek consent from parents, but the guidance said: “In secondary schools, some older children may be sufficiently mature to provide their own consent.”
“This sometimes occurs if a parent has not returned a consent form but the child still wishes to have the vaccine on the day of the session,” it said.
The guidance said: “There have been a small number of cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis, reported very rarely after COVID-19 vaccines.”
It said most of these cases recovered within a few days, but “urgent medical advice should be sought” if a child develops chest pain, shortness of breath, or “feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart” in the seven days following vaccination.
PA contributed to this report.