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Explains why 12 to 15 year olds are being offered the COVID-19 vaccine.

First published:
15 September 2021
Last updated:

Why are 12-15 year olds being offered the COVID-19 vaccine?

NHS Wales will begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to young people aged 12 to 15 years. 

This was recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers after reviewing evidence on the public health benefits of extending vaccination to younger people, including the mental health and long-term prospects for young people and the effect on education.

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) reported that the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms in this age group, but could not be recommended on health grounds alone.

Will the vaccine protect younger people?

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few weeks for your body to build up some protection after having the vaccine. 

Like all medicines no vaccine is completely effective. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having the vaccine, but this should be less severe. 

The vaccine given to children and young people is the Pfizer vaccine.

Tests have shown the vaccine is safe and effective. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the UK’s independent medicines regulator for use from age 12.

The vaccine has not been approved for use in people aged under 12 and this is not being considered at this time.

Am I at risk from COVID-19 infection?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that affects your breathing. Very few children and young people with COVID infection go on to have severe disease, but the illness can carry on months after infection, known as long COVID.

Coronavirus can affect anyone. Some children and young people are at greater risk. This includes those who already live with severe health conditions.

The JCVI also recommended that some children and young people with weakened immune systems should be added to the vaccination programme. This was because they were at higher risk of serious illness from COVID.

For most children and young people COVID is a mild illness. Symptoms may last for no longer than 2 to 3 weeks.

If you need more information on symptoms visit: NHS 111 Wales.

Are there side effects or potential risks?

After having the vaccine: 

  • your arm might feel heavy or sore
  • your body might ache
  • you might feel like you have a cold or the flu
  • you might have a headache
  • you might feel tired
  • you might feel very hot or very cold

If you feel unwell, you can rest and ask your parent or carer to give you some painkillers like paracetamol. You should feel better in a few days.

A very small number of people may get:

  • problems with their heart (myocarditis) – this can feel like your heart is beating in a different way than usual
  • pain in their chest (pericarditis)
  • breathing problems 

If you feel unwell after vaccination you can use NHS 111 if you are not sure what help you need. They will tell you what to do. If it is an emergency, they will be able to send an ambulance.

If you feel unwell after your vaccine, your parent or carers can report it using the yellow card website. This helps find out how different people feel after the vaccine and makes sure the vaccine keeps people safe.

How do I get the vaccine?

You will receive information from your health board about when and where you can get vaccinated. How you get the vaccine will vary depending on where you live in Wales, but it will be in vaccination centre or school setting. Please do not call your GP to ask about an appointment.

On the day of the appointment, wear practical clothing so it’s easy to get to the top of your arm. 

If you have a fear of needles or feel anxious, let the person giving your vaccine know. They will be understanding and support you.

You should not attend a vaccine appointment if you have COVID symptoms or are: 

  • self-isolating
  • waiting for a COVID-19 test result or 
  • within 4 weeks of having a positive COVID-19 test

You or your parents or carers should call to cancel and wait until you have recovered to have the vaccine.