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This autumn, all children aged 12 to 15 years are being offered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, following advice from the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) to the government.

Facts on the COVID-19 vaccine for 12-15-year-olds

As the school’s rollout of the vaccination programme for 12–15-year-olds continues, Lydia Roebuck, the Chair of the Richmond and Kingston Youth Council and the Member of Youth Parliament for Richmond, has interviewed the lead nurse for the rollout – Nic Kane. Lydia quizzes Nic on why younger people are being invited to have the vaccine, the benefits, the side effects, and information on the consent process. Watch now:

We also held a virtual Q&A with local NHS experts answering your questions on the rollout. Watch the video of this event:

Also, hear from Dr Patrick Gibson in our podcast Vaccinating Teenagers.

Why vaccinations are being offered

Very few healthy children and young people with COVID-19 go on to have severe disease, but offering vaccination to 12 to 15 year olds should help to reduce the risk of complications, reduce time out of education, and reduce the spread of COVID-19 within schools.

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 over 12 years of age. This follows a thorough review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group.

Coordinating the vaccine programme

The NHS is now working with local secondary schools on the rollout of the programme, it will be delivered in a similar way that other school-aged vaccinations such as HPV and flu are managed. Consent will be sought from parents, guardians and carers before vaccination starts. Alternative arrangements will be made for children who are home schooled, in secure services or specialist mental health settings.

Currently, one dose of the vaccine will be offered to most children in this age group and the timing of a second dose will be confirmed later. 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.

In addition, during October 2021 half term, to ensure that this age group can be vaccinated as soon as possible, appointments can also be booked (from 23 October), on the NHS booking service – currently open only to those aged 16 and up. This will enable young people to get a jab at a vaccination centre in the same way as adults can. 

When the vaccinations need to be given

The COVID-19 vaccinations are being given during the autumn term. Schools will let parents know the date.

Approved vaccine for use in this age group

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 over 12 years of age. This follows a thorough review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group.

Who will be giving the vaccine to the children

The programme will be delivered by an NHS commissioned school vaccination team, in Richmond upon Thames, this includes school nurses from HRCH, 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.

How the vaccination team will identify the children in schools to be vaccinated

For the vaccinations being delivered within schools, schools are sending out consent forms to parents and young people. The team will then have a list of all children for whom consent has been received in advance of the immunisation session.

How the consent process works

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 older children may be sufficiently mature 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. The school has no role in this process.

This is a well-established process which is used in other school-based vaccination programmes.

Can parents refuse to have their child vaccinated?

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 should be encouraged to speak to their children ahead of time so that there is agreement on consent by the vaccination session.

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 school vaccination provider 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.

During the October 2021 half term, parents can also book an appointment online to attend a regional vaccination centre.

Why 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.

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 local NHS are currently looking at plans as to how these children can receive their vaccinations.  

Can a 12 to 15 year old use the National Booking Service to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination?

During October 2021 half term, to ensure that this age group can be vaccinated as soon as possible, appointments can also be booked (from 23 October), on the NHS booking service – currently open only to those aged 16 and up. This will enable young people to get a jab at a vaccination centre in the same way as adults can. 

Can a healthy 12 to 15 year old use a COVID-19 walk-in vaccination site?

Unfortunately, walk-ins from this age group cannot be accepted. 

Further information

Updated: 05 November 2021