All 16 and 17-year-olds in England will be offered their first coronavirus vaccine by 23 August so they can build maximum immunity before returning to school, the health secretary has said.
Sajid Javid said the target date will allow the teenagers to get “vital protection” before returning to sixth form or college two weeks later in September.
Those aged 16 and 17 will be able to get vaccinated at one of more than 800 GP-led vaccination sites, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
Thousands will be invited, including by text and letter, to book their appointments through GPs or via walk-in centres.
Mr Javid said: “It is brilliant to see tens of thousands of young people have already received their vaccine – thank you for helping to further build our wall of defence against COVID-19 across the country.
“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. 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.”
Children aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 or who live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from the virus are also being contacted by the NHS and invited for their vaccine by 23 August.
The DHSC said that some 100,000 text messages are also being sent to teenagers within three months of turning 18, inviting them to book their vaccine appointment online through the National Booking Service or by calling 119.
The latest stage of the vaccine drive comes as the government said a further 93 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 130,894.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 155,000 deaths registered in the UK where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
As of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 29,520 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK, the government added.
Experts have warned that high levels of coronavirus infection and rising case rates mean the UK is “running hot” when it comes to managing the spread of the disease.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, on Friday said while vaccines are reducing the number of hospital admissions and deaths, high case numbers “still place an unnecessary burden on the NHS”.
The rate of new cases of the virus is currently rising in all four nations, suggesting the sharp fall in COVID-19 cases that had been under way since mid-July has now come to an end.