Updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) last week backed the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination to children aged 12-15 years old with conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19 - including those with severe neurodisabilities, immunosuppression, Down's syndrome, and those with multiple or severe learning disabilities.
Patients in this group will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine along with people aged 12-17 years old who live with an immunosuppressed person, while the jab has already been offered to people in at risk groups who are aged 16 or 17.
In a letter to GP practices on 22 July, NHS England said COVID-19 vaccination delivery plans should ensure that 'children are offered a first dose vaccination before returning to school in September'.
The letter added: 'Therefore, it is expected that first dose vaccinations for eligible children aged 12-15 to be operational from w/c 23 August at the latest with invitations issued in advance.'
Officials have confirmed that the patient group direction (PGD) for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being updated to bring it in line with the latest JCVI advice - but that patients aged 12-15 can currently only be vaccinated under a patient specific direction.
The current PGD, however, can be interpreted to allow vaccination of patients within three months of their 18th birthday, the letter confirms.
Not all vaccinations for vulnerable children will be delivered by PCN groups - with hospital hubs and school aged vaccination and immunisation services also expected to play a role.
The letter says PCN groups 'will require indemnity to vaccinate these children, adding that 'a contractual agreement will be put in place nationally which will follow shortly pending appropriate engagement with professional bodies'.
The JCVI said last week that it 'does not currently advise routine universal vaccination of children and young people less than 18 years of age' - although this advice will remain under review.
NHS England also urged vaccination sites ensure 'all adults have been offered the opportunity to be vaccinated', warning that the 'focus must remain on doing everything we can to ensure as many people as possible, especially those 18- 29-year-olds who have not yet come forward, receive their first dose, as well as maintaining an unrelenting focus on second dose delivery throughout the summer months'.