THE country’s top family doctor has urged families to get their children protected against coronavirus, as the NHS vaccination programme makes hundreds of thousands of appointments available.

Dr Nikki Kanani said around half a million vaccination appointments for 12 to 15-year-olds are up for grabs across the country during January.

Families can book in at up to 300 centres through the online booking system.

The slots are in addition to those available at around 500 walk-in sites, including shopping centres, libraries and football stadiums, and the schools vaccination programme.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, said: “I know how much disruption Covid has caused for so many families over the past two years, affecting young people’s lives and education.

“Getting vaccinated protects them, their family and their friends, letting them stay at school and continue socialising.

“The vaccine is safe and effective - my 13-year-old son had his first vaccination when I had my booster at our local pharmacy and it gave us both reassurance that he was protected as well, and he has recently topped up his protection with a second dose.

“Young people can get their life-saving protection at a walk-in site or wait to get vaccinated at school, but the best way to make sure it happens quickly and conveniently is to book online now.”

More than 1.4 million young people aged 12 to 15 have already had their first dose since the vaccine was rolled out to this age group in September, with thousands still getting jabbed each day.

However, there are still over one million young people who are yet to get their first dose of protection.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Keeping children in school is so important for their education, health and wellbeing.

“Vaccines will protect young people from Omicron, help to keep schools open and protect their friends and families.

“Many young people can get their first or second dose at school, at walk-in sites or parents can book one of the half a million vaccination appointments up for grabs across the country this month.”