COVID-19 vaccination programme for children
Guidance for parents and carers
This guidance is for Darlington residents about the NHS vaccination programme for school aged children aged 12 to 15 years. From September 2021, children aged between 12 and 15 will be offered one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination at school.
From October 2021, children aged 12-15 will be able to book their vaccinations at a vaccination site through the national NHS online booking system, or by phoning 119.
In Darlington, children will be able to have their COVID vaccinations at the Darlington Arena Vaccination Centre from Monday 25 October 2021.
Darlington Borough Council will not be responsible for the vaccination programme, however, it will be supporting residents and schools by communicating government guidance.
Why should children get the vaccine?
COVID-19 is a very infectious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Very few healthy children and young people with COVID-19 infection go on to have severe disease.
However, vaccinating children should help to reduce the need for children to have time off school. It will also reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 within schools. The NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme in secondary schools will provide protection to children who are vaccinated and help to reduce disruption to face to face education this winter (2021/22).
Eligibility and timing of vaccination
All children aged 12 to 15 years are being offered one dose of the COVID vaccine. Children who are 12 years old and over on the day the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS) team visits the school will be offered a vaccination as part of the in-school vaccination programme.
A child aged 12 years old can also have a vaccination at a COVID vaccination centre, such as the Darlington Arena Vaccination Centre, by appointment only.
Like all school-based vaccination programmes, the vaccines will be administered by healthcare staff working closely with the school and following the usual approach to school-based immunisation.
The local SAIS provider for Darlington has been asked to work with schools to plan for the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds. The SAIS will be the primary provider of the vaccination programme for healthy 12- to 15-year-olds and will be legally responsible for the delivery of the vaccine.
Darlington Borough Council will not be responsible for the service. The SAIS provider will be contractually responsible for the service, as they are for other school vaccination programmes.
The expectation is that the vaccination programme will be delivered primarily within schools but there might be certain areas or certain schools where this is not possible.
How parent or guardian consent will be obtained
For those aged 12 to 15 years consent will be sought by the SAIS provider from the parent or person with parental responsibility in the same way as for any other school vaccination programme.
A consent form and information leaflet provided by the SAIS team will be used to seek parental consent. You may be provided this via your local school. Parents will also be provided with a contact number for the SAIS team in case of any queries. Forms should be returned by the deadline agreed with the team.
Benefits for children and schools
Vaccinating children should help to reduce the need for children to have time off school and should reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 within schools. The main purpose of the COVID-19 secondary schools vaccination programme is therefore to provide protection to the children who are vaccinated and to reduce the disruption to face to face education this winter.
Educational benefits may include:
- reducing the chance of outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools
- avoiding absenteeism due to COVID-19 infection and for isolation
The vaccination helps to reduce the chance of COVID-19 infection and provides good protection against serious disease. It may take a few weeks to build up some protection from the first dose.
Common side effects
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term and not everyone gets them. The very common side effects should only last a day or 2.
Very common side effects in the first day or 2 include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection
- feeling tired
- headache, aches and chills
Children and young people may also have flu like symptoms with episodes of shivering and shaking for a day or 2.
We suggest that children should rest and take paracetamol (following the dose advice in the packaging) to help make them feel better.
Very rare serious side effects
Worldwide, there have been a small number of cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis, reported very rarely after COVID-19 vaccines. Most of these cases recovered within a few days and felt better following rest and simple treatments.
The cases have been seen mostly in younger males and mainly occurred within a few days of the second dose; myocarditis is extremely rare after the first dose of the vaccine.
Urgent medical advice should be sought if a child has the following symptoms in the 7 days following vaccination:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart
Where can I find information on COVID-19 vaccination for children and adults?
The NHS leaflets provide more information for parents and children on the vaccine, including how it works and what to expect after COVID-19 vaccination. There are accessible versions of the consent form and leaflets available for those with a learning disability or who live with autism. There are braille and British Sign Language (BSL) videos to order or download. Translations will also available.
When do the vaccinations need to be given?
The COVID-19 vaccinations are being given from the beginning of the autumn term. Your local SAIS will be in touch to arrange a date.
Who will be giving the vaccine to the children?
The NHS commissioned SAIS team will deliver the programme which may includes;
- healthcare support workers,
- administrative staff,
- and other associated professionals who specialise in the delivery of school age vaccinations.
The team will administer the vaccination according to nationally agreed standards. Staff are appropriately qualified, trained (including in safeguarding) and experienced in vaccinating children and young people. Staff administering the vaccine will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.
How will the SAIS provider team identify the children to be vaccinated?
The SAIS team will collect the consent forms from the school. This process may happen electronically in some areas. SAIS teams will supply paper versions for families who cannot access the digital or email versions. The team will then have a list of all children for whom consent has been received in advance of the immunisation session.
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.
The information leaflet is addressed to the child (as the recipient of the vaccine) and encourages them to discuss the decision about the vaccine with their parents.
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. Every effort will be made to contact the parent to seek their verbal consent. The school has no role in this process.
This is a well established process which is used in other school-based vaccination programmes.
How are schools involved in the consent process?
Whilst schools may host immunisation services, they are not responsible for securing parental or child consent, for assessing Gillick competence or mediating between parents and children who may disagree about whether or not to consent.
This is the role of registered nurses in the SAIS, who have extensive experience and the expertise to handle these issues and are professionally accountable for their decisions. Legal accountability for offering COVID-19 vaccines to children and young people sits with the SAIS and not with the school.
Can parents refuse to have their child vaccinated?
Yes. The vaccination is not mandatory. Parents will be asked to give their consent for the vaccination. Children may express a wish to have the vaccine and may have the capacity to provide informed consent themselves.
Parents should be encouraged to speak to their children ahead of time so that there is agreement on consent by the vaccination session.
What happens if a parent has not consented, but the child wants to be vaccinated?
Young people who understand fully what is involved in a proposed procedure, such as vaccination, can legally give consent. This is known as ‘Gillick competence’.
If no consent from a parent has been received, but the child wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent by the healthcare professional, the child can still be vaccinated. In this case, the healthcare professional will make every effort to contact a parent to check before they proceed.
If a parent objects to their child being vaccinated but the child wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent, the healthcare professional will try to reach agreement between the parent and child. However, the parent cannot overrule the decision of a Gillick competent child.
Trained professionals in the SAIS team, with expertise in vaccinating children will speak to the child. The SAIS team will assess the individual child’s capacity to self-consent (Gillick competence) and be responsible for deciding the appropriateness of administering the vaccine.
If no consent is received, and the child is not Gillick competent or does not want to be vaccinated, the immunisation will not proceed.
You can read about Gillick competence [external link] on page 8 of chapter 2 of the Green Book on immunisation.
This is a well established process which is used in other school-based vaccination programmes.
What about those children turning 12 years of age within the school year, after the date of the vaccination session?
SAIS providers will vaccinate all children aged 12 years and over on the day of the school visit. Young people in year 7 who are aged 12 years and have consented will be identified by SAIS and vaccinated at the same session, alongside pupils in years 8 onwards.
A follow-up offer will be made to any children who miss the first vaccination in their school.
This will help to ensure that the following pupils can access the vaccine:
- those turning 12 years after the session
- those who were absent from school on the day
- those who have recently had a COVID-19 infection
- those who subsequently change their minds or take longer to reach a decision
It is anticipated that this will be delivered outside of school setting to minimise any further disruption to education and other immunisation programmes.
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 that the SAIS provider team will be able to share with the school.
What happens if a child has a health condition or is unwell on the day of the vaccination session?
If a child is unwell on the day, the SAIS provider team will decide whether to proceed with vaccination or not.
All questions on the suitability of the vaccine for individual children should be directed to the NHS SAIS provider team delivering the vaccinations.
For any children who want to be vaccinated but are unable for health or other reasons to have the vaccine on the day, there will be catch-up arrangements in place that the SAIS provider team will be able to share with the school.
Why do children have to be observed for 15 minutes after vaccination.
Serious allergic reactions to vaccination are very rare but tend to happen within a few minutes of the injection. SAIS teams are all trained to spot and manage allergic reactions and so all children will be observed for 15 minutes.
All SAIS providers will bring the necessary equipment to treat an allergic reaction.
Children with allergies to common food items are not at higher risk of these serious allergies.
What should be done if a child becomes unwell in school after receiving the vaccination?
If the SAIS provider team is still on site, seek advice directly from them. If the SAIS provider team has left the site, manage the situation according to existing policies for pupil sickness in school. Contact the SAIS provider team to ensure they are aware and can report any event related to the timing of administration of the vaccine.
Visit NHS.UK [external link] for further information.
Will every school have vaccinations on site?
We expect most vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds to happen at school during school hours although this might be different for a small number of schools.
In schools where facilities are not available on site, the local NHS will make arrangements to ensure that pupils can access vaccination in a convenient alternative location, as soon as possible.
Will children who are home educated be offered a vaccine as part of this programme?
All children in the eligible age group who do not attend school, for example those who are home educated or living in secure accommodation should be offered the vaccine.
The SAIS provider will have plans in place to offer vaccination to these children.
Will children in special schools be offered a vaccine as part of this programme?
Yes. SAIS providers are commissioned to vaccinate children in special schools.
Can a 12- to 15-year-old use the National Booking Service to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination?
Booking via the NHS National Booking Service is not presently planned for children in this age group.
Can a healthy 12 to 15 year old use a COVID-19 walk-in site
Unfortunately, walk-ins from this age group cannot be accepted. Presently there are no plans to make them available.
Can school staff have the vaccine?
Not as part of the schools’ programme. All school staff will already have been offered vaccination as part of the adult programme.
They should make sure that they have had their 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. If they have not yet been vaccinated, they can still make an appointment with their GP or walk in centre or call 119.
See NHS.UK for further information.
- Children’s COVID-19 vaccination leafletsincluding the ‘What to expect after your COVID-19 vaccination’ leaflet [external link].
- Easy-read children’s COVID-19 vaccination leaflet and consent form [external link].