COVID-19 vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds: frequently asked questions

Why should my child have the COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. Vaccinating children helps to prevent them from becoming unwell with COVID-19.
  2. It helps to prevent children from spreading the disease to others. This helps to keep your family and friends safe, but it is also important to protect other members of your local community, who may be more at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  3. It helps to avoid children needing to take time off of school.
  4. Vaccinating children will help to keep rates of COVID-19 and hospitalisation due to COVID-19 down, helping to prevent the need for another lockdown.

If children are unlikely to get seriously ill from COVID-19, isn’t the vaccine unnecessary?

Although children are less likely to become severely unwell with COVID-19 than adults, some children do experience severe illness and require hospital treatment. They may also get long-COVID, with persistent COVID-19 symptoms including fatigue, muscle aches and concentration difficulties, which can greatly impact their wellbeing and schooling. COVID-19 can also cause children to miss school, which has a negative impact on their education, mental health and social development. Vaccination helps to prevent all of this.

Which vaccine will my child be given?

Two doses of COVID-19 vaccine are being offered to children aged 12 to 15 to give them the best possible protection against COVID-19. One dose of the COVID-19 vaccine gives good protection against your child getting seriously ill. But two doses gives stronger and longer-lasting protection.

Children will be given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for both doses.

You can read the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine patient information leaflet on GOV.UK.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. The safety, quality and effectiveness of vaccination in this age group has been thoroughly reviewed by scientists. Data from other countries who already vaccinate children also confirms the safety of the vaccine.  These two videos explain this in more detail: how do we know the COVID-19 vaccine is safe? and Dr Alex Bowmer explains how we know that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe.

Will my child have side effects?

Vaccines can cause side effects, but not everyone gets them. Most of the side effects are mild and 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 flu-like symptoms with episodes of shivering and shaking for a day or two.

We suggest that young people should rest and take paracetamol (following the dose advice in the packaging) to help make them feel better.

There have been extremely rare reports of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) after COVID-19 vaccination. Most people who had this recovered following rest and simple treatments.

Go to A&E or call 999 if your child has any of these symptoms within a few days of being vaccinated:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart (palpitations)

It is also important to consider that myocarditis is actually more common after COVID-19 infection than vaccination.

Will my child be monitored for an allergic reaction to the vaccine?

If your child has allergies, they will be observed for 15 minutes after having the vaccine. This is in the unlikely event they have a serious reaction to the vaccine.

If your child has allergies or had a reaction after a previous dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, tell the staff at the vaccination centre or pharmacy before they are vaccinated.

Research has found it’s very rare to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine. If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes.

School immunisation teams and staff at vaccination centres and pharmacies are trained to deal with reactions and treat them immediately.

Find out more about what to expect after vaccination on GOV.UK

Will my child have to take time off of school to have the vaccine?

Young people are now able to book their first and second vaccines through the national booking service or by ringing 119, to attend a vaccination site outside of school hours including over weekends and school holidays. Some clinics are offering walk-in vaccinations for 12 to15 year olds; visit our walk-in vaccination centres page to find a site local to you.

Second doses will be offered in schools from 10 January 2022. Children who have not yet had a vaccine can get their first dose during these vaccination sessions.

Children receiving their vaccine at school will have to leave their class to have the vaccine, but specialist teams of doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals and volunteers are working closely with schools to avoid disruption to the children’s school day as much as possible.

Will my child be vaccinated at school?

Most children will be offered a first and second dose of the vaccine at school during school hours. If your child is 12 years old or above on the day the vaccinations are taking place in school, they will be able to have the vaccine.

Alternatively, young people are now able to book their first and second vaccines through the national booking service or by ringing 119, to attend a vaccination site outside of school hours including over weekends and school holidays. Some clinics are offering walk-in vaccinations for 12 to15 year olds; visit our walk-in vaccination centres page to find a site local to you.

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, there will be catch-up arrangements in place for those who want to be vaccinated. Alternatively, parents or guardians can book their child in for vaccination at a local site through the online booking service or ringing 119. Some clinics are offering walk-in vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds; visit our walk-in vaccination centres page to find a site local to you.

How will children who are home educated get the vaccine?

Parents or guardians are able to book their child in for vaccination at a local site through the online booking service or by ringing 119. Some clinics are offering walk-in vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds; visit our walk-in vaccination centres page to find a site local to you.

What happens at a vaccination centre?

At the vaccination centre you will be able to speak to a nurse or doctor about the COVID-19 vaccine and ask any questions. They will then ask you and your child questions to ensure the vaccine is suitable for your child, and to gain consent for vaccination.

The vaccine itself is given as an injection into your child’s upper arm – it is very quick and does not usually hurt, or occasionally stings for just a few seconds.

If you or any other members of your family have not yet had your COVID-19 vaccine, you will also be able to get vaccinated, if you wish to.

My child has a physical or learning disability, can we attend a vaccination centre?

Most vaccination centres are wheelchair accessible, and many offer appointment slots at quieter times of the day for autistic people or those who have a learning disability or sensory disorder. Many centres also have a quiet, closed off room in which you can discuss vaccination with a healthcare professional, and have the vaccination away from the busy waiting area. Please mention this at the time of booking, and on arrival at the vaccination centre, as the vaccination team will be able to assist.

This film contains information about the COVID-19 vaccine for people with a learning disability and autistic people.

In this video Connor, an autistic person, explains their experience of having the COVID-19 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.

This guide explains the COVID-19 vaccination programme for eligible children and young people.

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. If this happens, every effort will be made to contact the parent to seek their verbal consent.

More information about the consent process is available in this guidance document for parents.

Parents in Islington are asked to let the vaccination team know what you and your child decide by completing the online consent form here.

Can I refuse to have my child vaccinated?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine is not compulsory.

Will the vaccine affect my child’s fertility?

No. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility in males or in females. There is some helpful information on the website of the British Fertility Society.

Do the vaccines contain alcohol or animal products?

There is no alcohol or animal-derived ingredients in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine which is the recommended vaccine for young people.

Further information

This guide for parents explains more about the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

This guide for children and young people explains more about the COVID-19 vaccine.

This simple text leaflet contains information about the COVID-19 vaccines for children and young people

You can find information and videos about the vaccine created for young people, by young people, on the Everything COVID website.

The NHS website contains further information about COVID-19 vaccination for this age group.