Health bosses in North Yorkshire are calling for children as young as 16 to accept the offer of a vaccination against the virus as thousands of children return from the summer break under the threat of a possible autumn surge in Covid.
Louise Wallace, director of public health for North Yorkshire, said schools were ready to deal with the situation but it was more vital than ever that youngsters got the jab in advance of resuming their education.
Ms Wallace said: “It is really important that young people do go back to school so we are supporting them through this next stage of living with Covid.
“If you are 16 or 17 years of age, please come forward and get vaccinated as soon as possible - and ideally before you go back to school.
“All schools and colleges are advised to keep continuing with regular hand washing, cleaning regimes and keeping spaces well ventilated.
“We will give support from a local public health perspective to any school or college if they see a spike in cases.”
Although no decision has yet been taken on the possible vaccination of 12-to-15-year-olds, pressure is growing nationally to extend the anti-Covid programme to younger age groups.
At a national level fears remain of the impact of the return to schools in terms of a possible rise in virus rates and the disruption that may have on youngsters' education once again.
Changes to the rules of bubbles introduced by the Government following the 'end of lockdown' on July 19 should mean, in theory, that schools are unlikely to face the spectre of sending scores of pupils and teachers home in the sort of numbers seen in 2020 and earlier this year.
The Government is also pushing all secondary-school students in England to take two lateral-flow swab tests at school, three to five days apart, to see if they are carrying the virus.
Schools have been beginning testing just before the term starts and are said to be staggering the return of pupils across the first week to manage this.
Harrogate Grammar School has already welcomed students back this week - but only to take part Covid-19 testing prior to the official return to teaching next Tuesday.
Neil Renton, headteacher at Harrogate Grammar School, said the school was fully ready for the new term.
Mr Renton said: “Our staff at Harrogate Grammar School have worked hard over the summer to deliver a summer school, support students through GCSE and A-Level results and also to set up the new testing arrangements.
"We feel well prepared for the new term."
Meanwhile, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones has added his voice to growing pressure on young people to get their Covid vaccinations.
The MP has supported a vaccine plea from North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) after figures showed around 31,000 young people in North Yorkshire had yet to come forward for their first vaccination.
The take-up locally in the county for first jabs among 18- to 29-year-olds is 73% compared to more than 90% in the older age groups
Mr Jones said: “ There is no doubt that the vaccinations have reduced hospital admissions and deaths even as infection rates remain relatively high.
“But we are now seeing that this is not a virus that only has severe effects for the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“Many young people are now in hospital with severe illness and some are suffering from long Covid.
“The vaccine reduces the chances of young people becoming severely ill and of long-term illness.
“No vaccine though is 100% effective and that is why it is also vitally important that people have their vaccinations - to protect not just themselves but those for whom the vaccine isn’t as effective and those who cannot have a vaccination for some reason.”