Where are we with Covid-19 vaccinations and children and young people?

young woman receiving a vaccination injection

Covid-19 Vaccination recommendations for young people are changing.  AYPH’s Vicky Robinson provides an update on the current situation and looks at the picture in the four countries of the UK.

On 19 July the governments of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland announced that on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) the following groups of children and young people should be offered two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine:

  • 12-15 year olds who are at an increased risk of serious Covid-19 disease and hospitalisation in the following groups:
  • Those with severe neuro-disabilities
  • Those with immunosuppression
  • Those with Down Syndrome
  • Those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities, or on the GP learning disability register
  • 12-17 year olds who are household contacts of people of any age who are immunosuppressed
  • Those turning 18 in the next three months

These groups are in addition to those JCVI prioritised in earlier phases of the vaccination programme; see our previous blog for further details. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are authorised for use in 12-17 year olds by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Following this, on 4 August 2021, JCVI published advice recommending that all 16 and 17 year olds should now be offered a single dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. A further update will be published in the autumn regarding details of second doses, once more data have been analysed.

Young people in this age group do not need parental consent to be vaccinated, as they are considered capable of making their own medical treatment decisions.

There are currently no plans to vaccinate healthy children under the age of 16. NHS organisations in England have been asked to prepare for a possible extension of the Covid-19 vaccination programme to all 12-15 year-olds dependant on a recommendation from experts on the JCVI.

However on 3 September the JCVI published a statement to say they do not advise vaccinating 12-15 year olds who do not have underlying health conditions as the risk to this group from the virus is so low that the benefits of vaccination would be marginal. They also stated concerns around evidence that some people experience a rare side effect from mRNA Covid-19 vaccines which causes heart inflammation and can lead to palpitations and chest pains. The JCVI did recommend that vaccinations be expanded to include 12-15 year olds with the following conditions:

  • haematological malignancy
  • sickle cell disease
  • type 1 diabetes
  • congenital heart disease
  • 12-15 year olds with poorly-controlled asthma and other respiratory conditions which can result in severe illness from Covid-19

The four Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will now consider the advice of the JCVI and assess the broader impact of a universal vaccination programme for 12-15 year olds. This process will include discussions with experts and senior leaders in clinical and public health and consideration of additional evidence, including the wider impacts on schools and young people’s education. They will then present their advice to ministers on whether a universal programme should go ahead.

So what does this mean for young people across the UK?


All young people aged 16-17 should have been offered their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Monday 23 August ahead of returning to school in September.

Young people within three months of their 18th birthday and all over-18s can book an appointment on the NHS website or find a walk-in Covid-19 vaccination site to get vaccinated without needing an appointment.

Young people aged 16 and over can get a Covid-19 vaccine from a walk-in Covid-19 vaccination site without an appointment. You do not need to be registered with a GP or bring any ID. Young people who are under 17 years and 9 months old cannot use the online appointment service to book a vaccination.

Young people under the age of 16 who are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine will be contacted by a local NHS service such as a GP surgery to book their vaccination appointments, but are not able to use walk-in sites.


Everyone 18 and over on 31 October 2021 in Scotland has been invited for a vaccine by their local health board.

Everyone aged 16 and over in Scotland is eligible for a Covid-19 vaccination. All young people aged 16-17 will be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The timing of the second dose will be confirmed later. 16-17 year olds with specific risk factors will be offered two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with an interval of 8 weeks between doses. Some young people aged 16–17 are already able to receive two doses of the vaccine if they are:

  • clinically extremely vulnerable, or have a specific underlying health condition
  • an unpaid carer
  • a frontline health or social care worker

All young people aged 16 and over can register to get the vaccine on the NHS inform website or by calling 0800 030 8013, or can attend a vaccine drop in clinic.

Young people aged 12-15 who are considered at higher risk from Covid-19 will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and will be contacted by NHS Scotland.

Some children under specialist care will be contacted directly by their healthcare professional and others will receive a vaccination invitation letter advising them how they can register or they can contact the national Covid-19 Vaccination Helpline on 0800 030 8013.

Young people who are not registered with a GP or do not have Community Health Index number can still get the vaccine by phoning the helpline on 0800 030 8013.


Everyone over the age of 18 (including those within 3 months of their 18th birthday) in Wales will be offered two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and will be contacted directly by the NHS by telephone or letter. Walk-in vaccination centres are also available. Young people should contact their local health board to find out about vaccination arrangements in their area or if they have not received a vaccination invitation.

Everyone aged 16 and over will now also be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Invitations are currently being sent out to 16 and 17-year-olds.

Young people in higher education who are currently studying in Wales or returning to Wales will be contacted by their GP or can contact their local health board to organise a vaccination. They can get their two doses at different locations if need be (including different locations in Wales). If you have a different address during term time, you do not need to return to that address to receive a vaccine.  Those young people leaving Wales to study in other UK nations should contact the local NHS service, health board or helpline where they are studying to arrange a vaccination.

Northern Ireland

To be eligible for a vaccination young people should be registered with a GP in Northern Ireland and be in one of the following categories:

  • aged 16 years and over as of the 31 August 2021 (you must have reached your 16th birthday on the date you attend for vaccination)
  • aged 12-15, ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’ and in receipt of a letter from a paediatrician
  • aged 12 and over and living with an immunosuppressed person with a letter from a GP or Health Trust confirming their eligibility

Anyone who is not registered with a GP in Northern Ireland but who lives or are temporarily a resident in Northern Ireland, can email the Department of Health at: COVID-19VaccinationProgramme@health-ni.gov.uk for advice on how to receive a vaccination.

Anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 40 will receive the Moderna vaccine. Everyone aged 18 and over who is registered with a GP can receive a vaccination at a mobile walk in vaccination clinic without an appointment or via booking an appointment with a community pharmacy providing Moderna vaccinations.

Young people who are aged 16-17 by the 31 August 2021 can receive a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a walk-in mobile vaccination clinic or from one of the seven regional vaccination centres. You must have reached your 16th birthday before the actual vaccination can take place.  The current locations include:

  • SSE Arena Marquee, 2 Queens Quay, Belfast BT3 9QQ
    • only those aged 16 – 17 and 12 – 15 who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable or household contacts of an immunosuppressed person can walk in for first dose Pfizer vaccination at this location
    • those aged over 18 may walk in for second dose vaccination appointments
  • Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast BT12 6BA
  • Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Trostan Avenue, Ballymena BT43 7BL
  • South Lake Leisure Centre, 1 Lake Road, Craigavon BT64 1AS
  • The Foyle Arena, 2 Limavady Road, Londonderry BT47 6JY
  • Omagh Leisure Centre, Old Mountfield Road, Omagh BT79 7EG
  • Lakeland Forum, Broadmeadow, Enniskillen BT74 7EF

Young people aged 12-15 (born between 1 August 2005 and 31 July 2009) and who are in one of the specific groups of ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’ recommended to receive the vaccine will be identified by their local Trust and contacted directly about receiving a vaccination.

Young people aged 12-15 who are living with an immunosuppressed person and are in receipt of a letter from their GP or Trust confirming that there is an immunosuppressed person living at their address, can book their vaccination online at any of the regional vaccination centres.








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