All 16- and 17-year-olds in England will be offered their first Covid vaccination in the next eight days, as health chiefs race to deliver protection before schools return.
Walk-in centres are now open across the country and an online site has been launched to help young people find the most convenient site for them.
Many teenagers will be sent texts or letters to urge them to book their appointments in time to allow a two-week gap for immunity to build up, before they restart lessons in September.
“I have asked the NHS in England to ensure they offer a first dose of the vaccine to everyone aged 16 and 17 by next Monday 23 August,” said Sajid Javid, the health secretary.
“This will make sure everybody has the opportunity to get vital protection before returning to college or sixth form.
“Please don’t delay – get your jabs as soon as you can so we can continue to safely live with this virus and enjoy our freedoms by giving yourself, your family and your community the protection they need.”
Around 1.4 million 16- and 17-year-olds across the UK are eligible to receive a first jab, after the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) shifted its advice this month.
They will receive a Pfizer dose – amid concerns about the slightly higher risk of blood clots in the young from the AstraZeneca version – and do not need their parents’ consent.
No decisions have yet been taken about second jabs for 16- and 17-year-olds, as more data is collected on possible heart inflammation.
Clinically vulnerable 12- to 15-year-olds, who face an increased risk from Covid-19, are also advised to be vaccinated, but the JCVI came out against a programme for all under-18s.
The government has joined forces with dating apps, social media platforms and firms including Uber and Deliveroo to incentivise for young people to get the vaccine.
Teenagers within three months of their 18th birthday, as well as all adults, can book an appointment on the NHS website.
There are hopes of declining vaccine hesitancy among adults, with seven in ten 18- to 29-year-olds now having had their first dose.
Data last week suggested more than 84,000 lives have been saved by the vaccine programme, since the first jab was delivered to the then 90-year-old Margaret Keenan last December.
It is calculated to have stopped about 23 million infections – preventing the pandemic exploding again after lockdown rules in England were scrapped last month.
Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are 96 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation, while the AstraZeneca jab is 92 per cent effective, research shows.
However, cases remain much higher in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, with 29,520 new infections – and 93 further Covid-related deaths – recorded on Saturday.
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