FAQs – Vaccinating 12-15 year olds

All children aged 12 to 15 will be offered a 1st dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Parents and guardians will get a letter with information about when the vaccine will be offered. Your local school vaccination service will be in touch to arrange a date.

12-15 year olds can also access the COVID-19 vaccine at one of our walk-in services, or by booking online.

Who is doing COVID-19 vaccinations in schools in south east London

The school age immunisations service (SAIS) for Bexley, Bromley, Lambeth and Southwark boroughs is provided by Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare (HRCH), who are working closely with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and AT Medics (a group of local GP practices) to deliver vaccination of 12-15 year olds through a schedule of school visits. All South East London children will be made an offer of vaccination in school, and all schools will be visited by 30th November.  

The SAIS provider for the Lewisham borough is Lewisham and Greenwich Trust (LGT), who are also the vaccination centre (VC) provider at Lewisham Hospital.

The SAIS provider for Greenwich is Oxleas and arrangements have been confirmed for children to be vaccinated within schools. The Oxleas workforce is being supplemented by local primary care network (PCN) staff as a jointly resourced endeavour, led by the SAIS.

Vaccination will be carried out by school-aged immunisation service (SAIS) providers, a group of provider organisations such as NHS community trusts who are contracted in local systems to provide routine immunisation services such as flu.

As of 19th October 2021, the national booking service  changed so that vaccinations for 12-15-year-olds can be booked online or via 119. This complements the existing school age immunisation services and ensures those who prefer to get a COVID-19 vaccination outside of a school setting (e.g. within a vaccination centre, primary care network (PCN) site or community pharmacy) can do so. The national booking service will help maintain access to vaccinations throughout the school holidays and beyond.

How consent can be given for school age COVID-19 vaccinations

Children under the age of 18 can consent to their own treatment if they are believed to have
enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what is involved in their
treatment.

This is known as being Gillick competent and is a functional ability to make a decision.
Some children may be mature enough to provide their own consent if their parents have not returned a consent form and they express a wish to have a vaccine on the day of the session.

Trained professionals in the SAIS team, with expertise in vaccinating children and assessing consent, will speak to the child to assess intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment. This is to see how appropriate it is to give  the vaccine to the child. This will include making every effort to contact the parent to seek their verbal consent and an assessment of the individual child’s capacity to self-consent, where appropriate.

As with all vaccinations, a consent form and information leaflet provided by the SAIS team will be used to seek consent from parents or those with parental responsibility. Parents will also be provided with a contact number for the SAIS team in case of any queries. Consent forms should be returned by the deadline agreed with the team.

In cases where parents refuse consent and the child is not deemed to be Gillick competent or does not want to be vaccinated, the guidelines from the UK Health Security Agency say a vaccination will not be given.

On the very rare occasion this happens, the clinician will bring the parent and child together to reach mutual consent. If consent cannot be reached, the school vaccination will not proceed as per the parents’ consent. If the child is deemed “Gillick competent”, then the child can make their own decision about consenting to the vaccine and visit a PCN vaccination location.

Schools are not involved in the consent process, other than sharing SAIS provider communications to the relevant school contacts for parents and students. These communications may include any SAIS provider letters, literature, e-consent forms or invitations to webinars/forums relating to the school vaccination offer.

Eligibility to get a vaccine and where else to get them

Yes, invitations are circulated to all home schooled children encouraging them to come forward for vaccination now. The offer will be that children can book their vaccination by contacting their GP/PCN site or attend walk-in appointments at Lewisham Hospital or St Thomas’ Hospital.

Yes, as of 19th October 2021, the national booking service changed so that vaccinations for 12-15-year olds can be booked online or via 119. This complements the existing SAIS provision and ensures those who prefer to access a COVID-19 vaccination outside of a school setting (e.g. within a vaccination centre, PCN site or community pharmacy) can do so. NBS access will help maintain access throughout the school holidays and beyond.

No children under the age of 12 can not 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.

The Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine is the only vaccine authorised for those aged
12 to 17.

The offer of vaccination to children and young people must always be accompanied by
appropriate information so they, and those with parental responsibility, are made
aware of the potential harms and benefits as part of informed consent prior to
vaccination.

Yes. Although this programme is focusing on in school vaccinations, if a healthy 12–15-year-old could go to a walk-in vaccination site or hospital hub, they will be able get a vaccine dose and won’t be turned away.

The offer will be that children can book a vaccine by contacting their GP/PCN site or attend walk-in appointments at Lewisham Hospital or St.Thomas’ Hospital.

The offer will be that children can book a vaccine by contacting their GP/PCN site or attend walk-in appointments at Lewisham Hospital or St.Thomas’ Hospital. Futher to this, patients can now book their vaccination appointments via NBS.

Children should not attend a vaccine appointment if they are self-isolating, waiting for a COVID-19 test or within 4 weeks of having a positive COVID-19 test.

Children should not attend a vaccine appointment if you are self-isolating, waiting for a COVID-19 test or within 4 weeks of having a positive COVID-19 test.

The vaccine currently has not been approved in children under 12 years old.

How we are making sure children and parents are not pressured into a decision

Yes. The decision to vaccinate children aged 12 – 15 has been given serious consideration. All information is directly obtained from:

Coercion of pupils of any kind will not be tolerated and no child or their guardian will be coerced or threatened into getting the vaccine. If you have concerns that a child is being coerced or receiving threatening information please speak with a member of staff at your school who can then raise with their local SAIS provider. Alternatively, you can contact your local Healthwatch to raise a complaint.

Further COVID-19 vaccine information for 12 to 15 year olds

Contact your GP now and ask them to arrange an appointment immediately.

As with all vaccinations, a consent form and information leaflet provided by the school age immunisation service (SAIS) team will be used to seek consent from parents or those with parental responsibility. Parents will also be provided with a contact number for the SAIS team in case of any queries.

Safety of the COVID-19 vaccines for 12 to 15 year olds

The Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has carried out a rigorous review of the vaccine in young people and deemed it safe for all 12 – 15-year-olds.

JCVI reported that children were at such a low risk from the virus that jabs would offer only a marginal benefit. However, the Chief Medical Officers have advised that healthy children aged 12 to 15 should be offered one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is after considering evidence on the mental health and long-term prospects for young people and the effect on education, combined with the marginal benefit to health.

Giving a flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine produced no safety concerns and preserves the immune response to both vaccines.

There have been extremely rare occurrences of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart), following the use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. These are extremely rare and have been seen more frequently after the 2nd dose. Most people seen with myocarditis post-vaccination recovered swiftly from it.

Most side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a few days, such as:

  • a sore arm where the needle went in
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to.

There have been reports  in the UK and other countries of the extremely rare occurrence of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart), following the use of Pfizer-BioNTech. These are extremely rare and have been seen more frequently after the 2nd dose. Most people seen with myocarditis post-vaccination recovered swiftly.

Like many vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines can cause mild side effects, like a sore arm, body aches, headache, a fever, or tiredness for a day or two. These are signs that the immune system is responding to the vaccine and building immunity to the virus. They’re not a cause for concern.

If your child’s symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of your child suffering from COVID-19. It may take a few weeks for their body to build up some protection from the vaccine. Your child should get good protection from the first dose. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe. The NHS has information about symptoms of COVID-19.

There is a mandatory 15 minute wait for observation by the vaccine team following a dose which, each child will have to complete before moving on.