Everyone aged 16 and over in the UK can now receive the Covid vaccine. Until now the UK has stopped short of vaccinating under-18s, except over-12s with underlying conditions, or those living with others at high risk. What are the plans for vaccinating teenagers? Those aged 16 and 17 are being offered a first dose. It has not yet been decided whether or when they will be offered a second.
There are an estimated 1.4 million people in this age group. NHS England says that nearly 16,000 have now received the vaccine. There are currently no plans to offer the jab to healthy 12-15-year-olds in the UK.
Do teenagers need parental consent to be vaccinated? No. When a person reaches 16, they are considered capable of making their own medical treatment decisions – such as whether to receive the Covid vaccine. This can only be overruled in exceptional circumstances. Under-16s can consent to their own treatment if they’re “believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved”. Otherwise, someone with parental responsibility can consent for them. If a parent refuses consent, the courts could overrule them if it’s in the best interests of the child.
More than 75% of UK adults – almost 40m people – have now received two Covid jabs. More than 47m people have had their first dose. Under-30s became eligible for the vaccine in June. So far about two-thirds of 18-29-year-olds in England have received at least one jab. In Scotland, the figure is about 70%.
You can’t choose what vaccine you get too. It’s based on your age and whatever vaccines are available at the time. If you’re under 40 or pregnant you will be offered Pfizer or Moderna. Under-18s will be offered Pfizer, as Moderna has not yet been licensed for this age group in the UK.
Most side effects are mild, completely normal and disappear after a few days. They happen because the body’s defences are reacting to the vaccine, and include:
- a sore arm
- feeling sick
A very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and you should discuss any allergies you have before vaccination. There have been reports that a very small number of young people developed inflammation of the heart muscle after receiving the vaccine. However, they would be much more likely to develop the condition from Covid itself.
There’s no evidence to suggest you should avoid alcohol altogether, but drinking in large quantities can suppress your immune system. Some women have experienced unusually heavy, painful or prolonged periods after being jabbed. This may be because the jab prompts an increase in activity in the immune system, which also plays a role in the menstrual cycle. Doctors and midwives are urging pregnant women to get a vaccine, to protect themselves and their babies. Coronavirus can cause serious illness in some women in later pregnancy, and possibly a slightly higher rate of stillbirth. You are encouraged to discuss any questions you have with your GP or midwife. If you’re planning a pregnancy or are breastfeeding you can still get vaccinated, government guidance says.
A recent study suggests vaccination can help improve long Covid symptoms. The vaccine could be pressing the body’s reset button and helping it recover, researchers say. The risk of becoming ill from Covid is about 90% lower if you’ve had the vaccine. It is not perfect, however, which means some people will still get infected. A small number will sadly die. Covid vaccines are very effective and will save many save lives.
Covid vaccines are not compulsory, but everyone is being urged to get jabbed, to protect themselves, their family, friends and wider society. Younger people are less likely to die from Covid-19. But a fifth of those in hospital in England are now aged 18-34. Without a jab you may not be able to do certain jobs. And some countries only allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter. People with both jabs don’t have to self-isolate on return to the UK from amber list countries.
The government has also said clubbers and people attending some other venues in England will have to be fully vaccinated by the end of September.