COVID-19 vaccinations for people aged 12-15
Young people between 12-15 years of age are now eligible to receive a single COVID-19 vaccine.
Parents or guardians of children aged 12-15 attending school will receive letters from Vaccination UK (the organisation who provide vaccinations in schools across north east London) with information about the vaccine, when the vaccination will be available and asking for parental consent.
Although it is rare for healthy children and young people with COVID-19 to have severe disease, the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the welfare, mental and physical health of young people through isolation from education and community is considerable and for some young people and their families it can be devastating. Offering a vaccination to 12 to 15 year olds will not only reduce the risk of complications, but it will reduce time out of education and reduce the impact of absence and isolation on personal health and wellbeing that has been seen during the pandemic.
Children will be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is the vaccine approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for children and young people between 12-15 years of age. This follows a thorough review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine for this age group.
At present, one dose of the vaccine will be offered to most children in this age group. Children in this age group who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), or live with someone who is immunosuppressed, will be offered two doses and will be contacted by their GP to arrange this.
For parents or young people who would like further information before having the vaccine, who want to discuss any concerns or who are not able to attend the school vaccination date, out of school community clinics are being set up and there are resources below including frequently asked questions to inform your decision.
Children do not need to be registered with a GP or have an NHS number to be vaccinated.
We are opening vaccine clinics for 12-15 year olds in the week beginning Sunday 24 October. As vaccine clinics become available you will be able to book them at the link below.
- General information for the public on the Covid-19 vaccination, including how to get the vaccination, eligibility, side effects and safety.
- COVID-19 parents leaflet - key guidance for parents on the vaccine, the programme, consent and other information
- COVID-19 Vaccination for children and young people aged 12-15 years’ leaflet - information to support conversations with your children about having the vaccine
- COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for eligible children and young people aged 12 to 17 in community languages: English, Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Chinese, Estonian, Farsi, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Latvian, Lithuanian, Panjabi, Pashto, Polish, Romanian, Romany, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Turkish, Twi, Ukrainian, Urdu and Yiddish.
- COVID-19 vaccination guidance for schools - information for schools on the approach to the vaccination programme
- Children’s Covid-19 vaccination leaflets - including the ‘What to expect after your Covid-19 vaccination’ leaflet for children aged 12+.
- Easy-read children’s Covid-19 vaccination leaflet - easy-read guides providing information on Covid-19 vaccination.
- Pre COVID-19 vaccination booking checklist for parents of children aged 12 to 15 years
- Information and Frequently Asked Questions for schools, parents, guardians, carers and young people on 12-15 vaccination - including frequently asked questions about issues such as consent and side effects.
- Review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in 12 to 15 year olds - Information from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on how the vaccine was authorised.
- Detailed information about consent for young people, including Gillick competence - The ‘Green Book’ has the latest information on vaccines and vaccination procedures and issues relating to it.
- COVID-19 vaccinations for children and young people aged 12 to 15 years information leaflet in Spanish
- COVID-19 vaccinations for children and young people aged 12 to 15 years information leaflet in Bengali
- Discover short videos related to Covid vaccine on TikTok - Watch popular content curated by TikTok creators including the World Health Organization and the British Red Cross.
- Read the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists frequently asked questions on vaccines and fertility.
Frequently asked questions
Where can I find more information to inform my decision?
A range of resources are available on the gov.uk website and will be regularly updated. These can be found here.
My child already had COVID-19, should I bother taking them to get the vaccine?
Yes. We know that these vaccines stimulate a stronger and possibly longer lasting immune response than a natural infection from the virus itself. We also don’t know how long natural immunity lasts, or if that immunity is protective against the new variants of the virus. Even if your child has already had COVID-19 it is still vitally important to get them both doses of their vaccine.
Will the vaccine stay in my child’s body forever?
No. The vaccine will stay in their body for a few weeks. During this time their own immune system is using information from the vaccine to train itself in how to defend them from a real attack of coronavirus. The components of the vaccine, once they’ve done their job, will be broken down by their body and removed.
Will the vaccine make a young person infertile in the future?
No. There is no biological mechanism for the vaccine to affect fertility and the early studies in animals and “real world” data from the roll out in people in the USA found no evidence that the vaccines affected their fertility. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has produced an FAQ you can read at: https://bit.ly/36zDiaB
Does the vaccine work against the Delta variant?
Yes. The vaccines still provide effective protection from severe illness, hospitalisation and death even with the Delta variant.
Are there any side-effects?
Like any medicine, including those you can buy over the counter, such as paracetamol or antihistamines, vaccines can have some side-effects. Most of these are mild and short-lived and not everyone gets them. Common side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccines include; soreness where the needle went in, feeling tired, headache, aches, feeling sick.
These side-effects usually wear off within a couple of days or less, and you can give your child over the counter medicine, such as paracetamol, to reduce the effects.
Is there a risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine?
Serious allergic reactions to vaccination are very rare but tend to happen within a few minutes of the injection, which is why everyone who receives the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are observed at the vaccination site for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Our vaccinators are trained to spot and manage allergic reactions and the necessary equipment to treat an allergic reaction will be available.
Children with allergies to common food items are not at higher risk of these serious allergies. However, if your child has existing allergies please bring this to the attention of the vaccinator and if you have concerns you can speak to your GP about getting vaccinated in a community clinic where your child can be observed for a minimum of 30 minutes after their vaccination.
How does the consent process work?
All parents or those with parental responsibility are asked for consent and will usually make this decision jointly with their children. The ‘guide for children and young people’ is addressed to the child (as the recipient of the vaccine) and encourages them to discuss the decision about the vaccine with their parents.
Can parents refuse to have their child vaccinated?
Vaccination is not mandatory. Parents will be asked to give their consent for the vaccination. However, children may express a wish to have the vaccine and may have the capacity to provide informed consent themselves. Parents should be encouraged to speak to their children ahead of time so that there is discussion and agreement on how to go forwards with consent before the vaccination session at the school.
Can my child be vaccinated if I (as a parent or with parental responsibility) don’t give consent?
If a child wishes to have the vaccine without parental consent, the parent and child will be asked to attend a community clinic to discuss and access the vaccine. Vaccines will not be administered in a school setting without consent.
What happens if a young person and a parent disagree over having the vaccination?
Under UK law young people under the age of 16 can consent to, or decline, medical treatment as long as they are deemed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to do so. This is known as being ‘Gillick’ competent. If a young person requests medical treatment that their parent has not consented or declines treatment a parent has consented to a trained health professional will undertake the competency test before deciding whether treatment can be provided. The assessment also includes counselling and support for the young person to involve their parent in the decision.
How are schools involved in the consent process?
Whilst schools may host immunisation services, they are not responsible for securing parental or child consent, for assessing if a child is mature enough to make their own decision or mediating between parents and children who may disagree about whether or not to consent. Accountability for offering COVID-19 vaccines to children and young people sits with the school vaccination provider and not with the school.
My child/children have been identified as clinically vulnerable. How do they access the vaccine?
Children with specific health conditions will be contacted by their GP or paediatrician and will be able to receive their vaccination at the in school or out of school community clinics and the local vaccination centres offering dedicated sessions for children and young people.
Where can I access the community clinics?
It is expected that out of school community clinics will be available across north east London from the October half term. The clinics are in the process of being arranged in each borough across north east London and will be available to book on the National Booking System. You will receive a letter about this shortly.
What conditions are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable?
Children aged 12-15 years with the following specific health conditions are more at risk of becoming seriously ill or being hospitalised if they catch COVID-19 and classed as clinically extremely vulnerable:
- conditions that cause breathing difficulties for example severe or difficult to control asthma requiring continuous or repeated use of systemic steroids
- cystic fibrosis
- serious heart problems
- kidney, liver or a gut disease
- a neurodisability or neuromuscular condition
- a severe or profound learning disability
- Down’s Syndrome
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (steroid medication, chemotherapy or radiotherapy)
- an organ transplant
- cancers (such as leukaemia or lymphoma)
- conditions affecting the child’s spleen, for example sickle cell disease, or if they have had their spleen removed
- serious genetic problems
- other serious medical conditions as advised by your doctor or specialist
Will school-based vaccination be available for 16-17 year olds?
Alternatives are available for young people aged 16-17. There are a range of convenient walk-in centres available to them, and they can book their vaccine on the National Booking System.
When will the vaccinations be given?
The COVID-19 vaccinations started at the end of September. Your local school vaccination service will be in touch to discuss consent and inform you of vaccination sessions.
Will children who are home educated be offered a vaccine as part of this programme?
Yes. All children in the eligible age group who do not attend school, for example those who are home educated or living in secure accommodation will be able to access the vaccine through the out of school community clinics.
What about those children turning 12 years of age within the school year, after the date of the vaccination session?
No children under the age of 12 can yet receive a COVID-19 vaccination as the vaccine is not licensed for children under 12. However, once eligible these children will be able to attend an out of school community clinic.
Why is only Pfizer being offered? Why can’t my child have Astra Zeneca?
Pfizer-BioNTech is the only vaccine currently authorised for those aged 12-15.
Community clinics will be set up to vaccinate children who miss the first vaccination in their school. This will help to ensure that the following pupils can access the vaccine:
- those turning 12 years after the school session
- those who were absent from school on the day
- those who have recently had a COVID-19 infection
- those who subsequently change their minds or take longer to reach a decision.
What happens if a child has a health condition or is unwell on the day of the vaccination session?
For children who want to be vaccinated but are unable for health or other reasons to have the vaccine on the day, out of school community clinics will be available.
Can children or their parents use the National Booking Service to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination?
Yes. Appointments can be booked using the National Booking System from Saturday 23 October.
Can a 12 to 15 year old get vaccinated in a COVID-19 walk-in vaccination site?
No. Specific staff are required to be available in clinics where children are being vaccinated and this cannot be guaranteed at walk-in clinics.
Why do children have to be observed for 15 minutes after vaccination?
Serious allergic reactions to vaccination are very rare but tend to happen within a few minutes of the injection. Vaccination teams are all trained to spot and manage allergic reactions and so all children will be observed for 15 minutes. All vaccination teams will bring the necessary equipment to treat an allergic reaction. Children with allergies to common food items are not at higher risk of these serious allergies.
What should be done if a child becomes unwell after their vaccination?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term and not everyone gets them. The common side effects should only last a day or two. The Pfizer vaccine tends to cause more side effects after the second dose of the vaccine.
Common side effects in the first day or two include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection
- feeling tired
- headache, aches and chills
You may also have flu-like symptoms with shivering and shaking episodes for a day or two. However, a high temperature could also indicate that you have COVID-19 or another infection.
You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better.
An uncommon side effect is swollen glands in the armpit or neck on the same side as the arm where you had the vaccine. This can last for around 10 days, but if it lasts longer see your doctor.
If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you or your parents can call NHS 111. If you do seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination (show them the vaccination card) so that they can assess you properly.
How soon will I be protected from Covid-19 after I have had the vaccine?
It is important to remember that after the vaccine you still need to follow the government guidelines on staying safe. Your immunity will not start to develop until 10 days after the vaccine has been given to you. The vaccine is supposed to reduce the severity of the illness and may not stop you catching it completely.