Covid vaccination programme for young people aged 12-15

Overview

This autumn all young people aged 12 to 15 years are being offered the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine within a school setting

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers all agree that while COVID-19 is typically mild or asymptomatic in most young people, it can be very unpleasant for some and one dose of the vaccine will provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation.

Vaccinating 12 to 15 year olds should also help to reduce the need for young people to have time-off school and reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 within schools.

The COVID-19 secondary schools vaccine programme should therefore provide protection to young people and reduce the disruption to face to face education.

This will help to keep young people emotionally well and happier and this was an important consideration for the Chief Medical Officers.

Getting vaccinated

Parents are now able to book COVID-19 vaccinations online for their 12- 15 year old children. Letters will be sent to parents and guardians of children aged 12 – 15 over the coming weeks by the Government inviting them to book the vaccine online or by calling 119. No walk-in appointments can be offered for this age group as centres need to ensure that specialist staff are in place to deliver this vaccine to children and young people.

People will be able to go online and check the National Booking Service to see local appointments to vaccinate children and young people. Oxford Health’s sites at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, Guttmann Centre, Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury and Broad Street Mall in Reading will all be offering appointments.

Parents and guardians will be advised to attend vaccination sites with their children if they want them to be vaccinated outside of school hours and consent will be sought on the day. Parents and young people are being asked to read the patient information in advance of arriving for their appointment. This can also be accessed online.

As more sites come online, parents will have the extra offer of getting their children vaccinated at other existing vaccination centres , including GP practices, community pharmacies and other convenient local sites. Parents are being advised to keep checking the NHS.uk as more appointments and sites become available.

More detail on the vaccination programme can be found on the UK Government website

If a child has already been invited through their school, they do not need act on their invite unless parents wish access the National Booking System to get their child vaccinated outside of school. If parents no longer wish to have their child vaccinated in school parents should withdraw their school consent preferably at least 3 days  before the planned school vaccination date.

Getting the vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine 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 of vaccine.

Is it safe for young people?

The medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has confirmed the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for 12 to 17 year olds. This followed a rigorous review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccines in this age group.

The UK has also benefited from having data from the US, Canada and Israel, which have already offered vaccines universally to young people aged 12 to 15 years. These videos explain this in more detail:

How were the vaccines developed so quickly?

All vaccines have had three stages of clinical trials and were tested on tens of thousands of people around the world.

The trial phases were run in parallel, speeding up the overall time of vaccine production, but not the critical research time.

Since December 2020, the Pfizer vaccine has been given to millions of people in the UK and has an excellent safety record.

Common side effects

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 two.

Very 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
  • young people may also have fu-like symptoms with episodes of shivering and shaking for a day or two

It is advised young people should rest and take paracetamol (following the dose advice in the packaging) to help make them feel better.

Less common side effects

Following administration of Pfizer vaccine to protect against Covid 19 there have been very rare reports of the following side effects and usually a few days after the second dose:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Feelings of having a fast beating or pounding heart

Most symptoms are short-lived and will resolve spontaneously with some rest and simple treatments.

However, should your son/daughter experience any of these symptoms, and you are concerned, please contact your GP or NHS111 and explain that he/she has recently been vaccinated with Pfizer vaccine. More information about the Pfizer vaccination can be found here: COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for eligible children and young people aged 12 to 17 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

For further information including vaccine components see below:

Patient information leaflet – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19/patient-information-leaflet-for-covid-19-vaccine-pfizerbiontech

Common questions

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. In secondary schools, some young people may be mature enough to provide their own consent. This sometimes occurs if a parent has not returned a consent form but the child still wishes to have the vaccine on the day of the session. Every effort will be made to contact the parent to seek their verbal consent. This is a well-established process which you will be familiar with from other school-based vaccination programmes.

Who decides whether a young person can give their own consent?

In secondary schools, some young people will be mature enough to provide their own consent. Healthcare professionals from the Oxfordshire School-Aged Immunisation Team (SAIT) will speak to the young person and make every effort to contact the parent. These professionals have expertise in vaccinating young people and will be responsible for assessing whether they have enough understanding to self-consent (this is called ‘Gillick competence’).

This is a well-established process which you will be familiar with from other school-based vaccination programmes.

You can read the Green book of immunisation for more information on consent including Gillick competence – Consent: the green book, chapter 2 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Can parents refuse to have their child vaccinated?

Yes. The vaccine is not mandatory. Parents will be asked to give their consent for the vaccine. Young people 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 agreement on consent in advance of the vaccination session.

If no consent is received, and the young person is not Gillick competent or does not want to be vaccinated, the immunisation will not proceed.

What happens if a parent has not consented, but the young person wants to be vaccinated?

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 young person wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent by the healthcare professional, the young person can still be vaccinated.

In this case, Oxfordshire SAIT will make every effort to contact a parent, to try to reach agreement between the parent and young person. However, the parent cannot overrule the decision of a Gillick competent young person. You can read the Green book of immunisation for more information on consent including Gillick competence Consent: the green book, chapter 2 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

What about those children turning 12 years of age within the school year, after the date of the vaccination session?

SAIS providers will vaccinate all children aged 12 years and over on the day of the school visit. Young people in year 7 who are aged 12 years and have consented will be identified by SAIS and vaccinated at the same session, alongside pupils in years 8 onwards.

A follow-up offer will be made to any 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 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 It is anticipated that this will be delivered outside of school settings to minimise any further disruption to education and other immunisation programmes.
Will 16 and 17 year olds be vaccinated in schools?

16 and 17 year olds 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 attend a local NHS service.

Additionally, the Kassam Vaccination Centre in Oxford is offering walk in vaccinations to people aged 16 and 17 years (do check the NHS website for latest opening hours for walk ins before travelling) Find a walk-in coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination site – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

What happens if a child is not present on the day when vaccination is offered in the school?

For any children absent on the vaccination day catch-up arrangements will be put into place by the Oxfordshire SAIS team that will be shared with schools.

What happens if a child has a health condition or is unwell on the day of the vaccination session?

If a child is unwell on the day, the Oxfordshire SAIS team will decide whether to proceed with vaccination or not. 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.

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. The Oxfordshire SAIS team are all trained to spot and manage allergic reactions and so all children will be observed for 15 minutes. Children with allergies to common food items are not at higher risk of these serious allergies.

See www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/safety-and-side-effects for further information.

Will every school have vaccinations on site?

It is expected most vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds will  happen at school during school hours.

Will children who are home educated be offered a vaccine as part of this programme?

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 Oxfordshire SAIS team has plans in place to offer vaccination to these children.

Will children in special schools be offered a vaccine as part of this programme?

Yes. The Oxfordshire SAIS team is commissioned to vaccinate children in special schools.

Non-urgent advice: Further advice

Further scientific advice and reading on the issue.

Some helpful links to trusted sources include:

Page last reviewed: 22 October, 2021