All 12- to 15-year-old pupils at mainstream secondary schools in the city have now been offered the coronavirus vaccination.
The successful vaccination programme adds to the measures taken to address very high and rising coronavirus infection rates in schools. With schools suffering both in terms of pupil and staff absence as a result, the Director of Public Health last week issued some updated guidance for Portsmouth schools to help limit the spread of the virus.
This included giving them support and encouragement to put in place additional measures where appropriate, including, for example, keeping pupils in separate bubbles and reintroducing face coverings in communal areas. The updated guidance also encourages greater use of lateral flow testing, including for primary school age pupils – with the parental agreement – where children are waiting for the results of a PCR test having been identified as close contacts of a positive case, either at school or at home.
Cllr Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council said:
“In common with many areas across the country, as schools broke up for half term last week, they were experiencing high levels of positive cases, affecting some schools’ ability to stay open for on-site learning.
“The vaccination programme for 12- to 15-year-olds has been rolled out extremely quickly and this, alongside the ability for schools to re-introduce bubbles and face coverings if they feel it is appropriate, aims to help reduce the number of infections, so that schools can continue to run smoothly. Having children in school in full-time education is vital for their future prospects and wellbeing, and schools are doing everything they can to minimise disruption to the children’s education in these challenging times.
“I would like to thank children, families and school staff for continuing to follow the guidance to keep themselves and their communities safe.”
Case rates in Portsmouth were in line with national figures on 14 October, but increased 36% amongst the 10-14 age group, compared to 6% nationally, prompting the updated guidance to schools to help reduce the spread. In the seven-day period to Thursday 21 October, the rate of cases in Portsmouth was 2,260 per 100,000 amongst 10-14-year-olds, compared to 1,869 per 100,000 in England.