Below are answers to a series of frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccinations for people aged 12 to 15.
This autumn all children in England aged 12 to 15 are being offered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
COVID-19 is a very infectious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Very few healthy children and young people with COVID-19 infection go on to have severe disease.
Vaccinating children should help to reduce the need for children to have time off school and to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 within schools.
- Eligibility and timing of vaccination
- Who will be giving the vaccine to 12 to 15 year olds?
- Will consent be sought from parents/the person with parental responsibility?
- Can parents refuse to give consent for their child to be vaccinated?
- What happens if a parent has not consented, but the child wants to be vaccinated?
- How are schools involved in the consent process?
- What happens if a child is not present on the day when vaccination is offered in the school?
- What happens if a child has a health condition or is unwell on the day of the vaccination session?
- Why do children have to be observed for 15 minutes after vaccination?
- Will children who are home educated be offered a vaccine as part of this programme?
- Will children attending schools in alternative provision settings be offered a vaccine as part of this programme?
- Can a 12 to 15 year old use the National Booking Service to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination?
- Can a healthy 12 to 15 year old use a COVID-19 walk-in site?
- Will school-based vaccinations be available for children who are within a few weeks of their 12th birthday?
- Will 16 and 17 year olds be vaccinated in schools?
- More information (side effects etc).
All young people aged 16 and 17 have been offered a first dose of the vaccine. Children and young people aged 12 to 17 who are at increased risk from infection, or who are living with someone who is immunosuppressed, have also been offered two doses of the vaccine, eight weeks apart.
And now all children aged 12 to 15 years are being offered a first dose of vaccine as part of the school-based COVID-19 vaccination programme. Children who are 12 years old and over on the day the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS) team visits the school, will be offered a vaccination as part of the in-school vaccination programme.
The programme will be delivered by an NHS commissioned SAIS team which may include nurses, healthcare support workers, administrative staff, and other associated professionals who specialise in the delivery of school age vaccinations.
The team will administer the vaccination according to nationally agreed standards. Staff are appropriately qualified, trained (including in safeguarding) and experienced in vaccinating children and young people. Staff administering the vaccine will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. Healthcare staff will work closely with the school and follow the usual approach to school-based vaccination.
As with all vaccinations, for those aged 12 to 15 years consent will be sought by the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS) provider from the parent or person with parental responsibility in the same way as for any other school vaccination programme.
A consent form and information leaflet provided by the SAIS team will be used to seek parental consent. Parents will also be provided with a contact number for the SAIS team in case of any queries. Forms should be returned by the deadline agreed with the team.
Yes. The vaccination is not mandatory. Parents will be asked to give their consent for the vaccination. Children may express a wish to have the vaccine and may have the capacity to provide informed consent themselves.
Parents are encouraged to speak to their children ahead of time so that there is agreement on consent by the vaccination session.
This is a well-established process which is used in other school-based vaccination programmes.
Young people who understand fully what is involved in a proposed procedure, such as vaccination, can legally give consent. This is known as ‘Gillick competence’.
If no consent from a parent has been received, but the child wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent by the healthcare professional, the child can still be vaccinated. In this case, the healthcare professional will make every effort to contact a parent to check before they proceed.
If a parent objects to their child being vaccinated but the child wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent, the healthcare professional will try to reach agreement between the parent and child. However, the parent cannot overrule the decision of a Gillick competent child.
Trained professionals in the SAIS team, with expertise in vaccinating children will speak to the child. The SAIS team will assess the individual child’s capacity to self-consent (Gillick competence) and be responsible for deciding the appropriateness of administering the vaccine.
If no consent is received, and the child is not Gillick competent or does not want to be vaccinated, the immunisation will not proceed.
You can read about Gillick competence on page 8 of chapter 2 of the Green Book on immunisation.
Whilst schools may host immunisation services, they are not responsible for securing parental or child consent, for assessing Gillick competence or mediating between parents and children who may disagree about whether or not to consent.
This is the role of registered nurses in the SAIS, who have extensive experience and the expertise to handle these issues.
For any children absent on the vaccination day, there will be catch-up arrangements in place that the SAIS provider team will be able to share with the school.
If a child is unwell on the day, the SAIS provider team will decide whether to proceed with vaccination or not.
All questions on the suitability of the vaccine for individual children should be directed to the NHS SAIS provider team delivering the vaccinations.
For any children who want to be vaccinated but are unable for health or other reasons to have the vaccine on the day, there will be catch-up arrangements in place that the SAIS provider team will be able to share with the school.
Serious allergic reactions to vaccination are very rare but tend to happen within a few minutes of the injection. SAIS teams are all trained to spot and manage allergic reactions and so all children will be observed for 15 minutes.
All SAIS providers 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.
All children in the eligible age group who do not attend school, for example those who are home educated or living in secure accommodation should be offered the vaccine.
The SAIS provider will have plans in place to offer vaccination to these children.
Yes. SAIS providers are commissioned to vaccinate children attending schools in alternative provisions settings.
Booking via the National Booking Service is not presently planned for children in this age group.
Unfortunately, walk-ins from this age group cannot be accepted. Presently there are no plans to make them available.
Children under the age of 12 cannot yet receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 (Comirnaty®) is the only vaccine currently authorised for those aged 12-15. This vaccination is licensed only for children aged 12 and above, so only children who are 12 on or before the date of vaccination will be vaccinated.
Will 16 and 17 year olds be vaccinated in schools?
Those aged 16 and 17 year are already being offered a vaccination through the adult vaccination system. The NHS will contact 16 and 17 year olds when it’s their turn to get the vaccine, and they will be invited to a local NHS service such as a GP surgery. Additionally, some walk-in COVID-19 vaccination sites are offering the vaccine to people aged 16 and 17 years.
The vaccination helps to reduce the chance of COVID-19 infection and provides good protection against serious disease. It may take a few weeks to build up some protection from the first dose.
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term and not everyone gets them. The very common side effects should only last a day or 2.
Very common side effects in the first day or 2 include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection
- feeling tired
- headache, aches and chills
Children and young people may also have flu-like symptoms with episodes of shivering and shaking for a day or 2.
We suggest that children should rest and take paracetamol (following the dose advice in the packaging) to help make them feel better.
Very rare side effects
Worldwide, there have been a small number of cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis, reported very rarely after COVID-19 vaccines. Most of these cases recovered within a few days and felt better following rest and simple treatments.
The cases have been seen mostly in younger males and mainly occurred within a few days of the second dose; myocarditis is extremely rare after the first dose of the vaccine.
Urgent medical advice should be sought if a child has the following symptoms in the 7 days following vaccination:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart
Where can I find information on COVID-19 vaccinations for children and adults?
The NHS leaflets provide more information for parents and children on the vaccine, including how it works and what to expect after COVID-19 vaccination. There are accessible versions of the consent form and leaflets available for those with a learning disability or who live with autism. There are braille and British Sign Language (BSL) videos to order or download. Translations will also be available.