Unvaccinated university students have been urged to get a Covid jab during freshers’ week to protect themselves and their peers against the virus.
The NHS’s top doctor has called on freshers to get the vaccine at pop-up clinics and walk-in centres set up by universities before their courses begin.
The plea comes as thousands of students arrive at university campuses across the UK over the next few weeks.
Prof Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, said: “Starting university is a really exciting time and getting your Covid vaccine means you will be armed with maximum protection against the virus. It is fantastic to see the enthusiasm from young people, with more than 3.4 million people aged between 18 and 24 already having their first jab.
“With many universities set to run pop-ups and walk-ins throughout the first weeks of term it has never been easier to get protected, so I urge anyone yet to be vaccinated to take up the offer as soon as possible.”
Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, said: “We welcome this reminder to students from Prof Powis, which echoes messages from universities to their students that they should make every effort to get vaccinated before the start of the university year.
“Universities will provide pop-up vaccination clinics, vaccine buses or easy access to local walk-in centres, GPs and pharmacies at the start of term to make getting fully jabbed as easy and convenient as possible.”
Many universities, including Liverpool Hope University and Queen Mary University of London, are setting up pop-up clinics during freshers’ week in an effort to get as many young adults vaccinated as possible.
It comes after Scottish universities were previously advised to postpone freshers’ week due to the risk of coronavirus spreading during “mass activities”.
In June, a Scottish government advisory group called for the activities to be delayed for a few weeks as they warned there would be a proportion of students arriving on campus having only had one vaccine dose.
Meanwhile, Hartpury University and Hartpury College in Gloucester, a specialist agricultural and veterinary nursing college, has banned unvaccinated students from living on site to ensure maximum protection against the virus.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Starting university is one of the most significant moments in the lives of millions of people every year – and having your jab could be one of the most important things you do to ensure you get the best out of it.
“I urge everyone who has not yet got the vaccine to do so as quickly as possible, to not only protect yourself but also your new university community.”
Last autumn, a number of universities were forced to move most of their classes online due to coronavirus outbreaks among students.
This term, students are being urged to book their second jab at a pharmacy, GP practice or vaccination centre in their new university town or city.
Everyone aged 18 and over is able to book an appointment through the National Booking Service, and the second dose can be given in a different location to the first as long as eight weeks have passed.
Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, the vice-president for higher education at the National Union of Students, said: “It’s great to see the Covid vaccine being made easily available on campus for students – at NUS, we’ve been asking the government to do everything it can to make sure young people can access vaccines easily. I’d urge everyone who is able to get the vaccine so that we can have a safer time back on campus.”