Young people – who’ve missed out on so much over the past 18 months – are being offered their first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to protect themselves and the wider community from the virus.
With last winter disrupted by lockdown, and young people missing so much school, college, time with friends and seeing grandparents, getting the vaccine will help make sure this year is a whole lot better. Not only does the vaccine protect young people against serious illness – almost 75 per cent of Covid patients admitted to hospital are unvaccinated – it also means they’re less likely to spread the virus to elderly family members.
No more FOMO
We’ve come a long way with the vaccination programme since those dark days of last winter. The Covid-19 vaccine has already saved more than 100,000 lives and prevented 24 million infections.
Jabs are now being rolled out for the 12-15 age group, and more than 50 per cent of 16-17-year-olds have already had theirs. And getting the jab couldn’t be easier: schools and colleges are offering it through their immunisation programmes, while older teenagers can make an appointment through the online booking service at nhs.uk/covidvaccination.
If you’re a parent or guardian of a 12-15-year-old, schools will ask for your consent before they receive the vaccine, and you can help 16-17-year-olds book their dose online. Then it’s one less thing for you to worry about – and they won’t need to worry about missing out on all those good times with family and friends.
‘It’s going to help us all get back to normal’
Fashion and lifestyle influencer Arabella Daho (Amazing Arabella), 17, is keen to book her vaccine appointment.
“I think the vaccine is a great thing for everyone to have – it’s helping to keep us safe," she says. "We have loads of events coming up such as Halloween and Christmas, and we don’t want to miss them.
“On my digital platforms I’ve interviewed a few of the doctors who worked on the vaccine, talking about how safe it is, and why it’s important for everyone to get it. It was good to talk to them – I learned a lot, so if anyone wants to see those videos or do research to help them feel better about getting the vaccine, I think they should.
“Young people think they’re immune to everything, but we can actually be spreading Covid, especially to older people, who are more vulnerable. So getting jabbed helps communities and families get back to normal.”
‘All my kids have had their vaccines’
We asked GP and mum-of-three Dr Dawn Harper about what the vaccine means for young people…
How do you feel about your kids being offered the vaccine?
All my kids are in their 20s and they’ve all had their vaccines. I was very keen for them to get vaccinated as soon as they were eligible. If I had a 12-to-15-year-old I’d be putting them forward for the vaccine. We’ve been able to draw on global data; several countries have already been offering the vaccine to 12-15-year-olds, and we have a lot of evidence to show that it’s safe for that age group.
And while young people are less likely to become seriously ill with Covid, I am in total agreement with the chief medical officers concerning the impact on their mental health and their education, and also the possibility of long Covid.
And, of course, we are only enjoying the relative freedoms we have today in the UK because of the vaccine programme. Without it, we’d still be in a lockdown. We need the vaccine to protect ourselves from Covid and long Covid, and also to protect our loved ones and our community. So I’m very keen for young people to come forward and have the vaccine.
Did you have to persuade your children to have the jab?
They were up for it. For me, lockdown was easier: I’m 58 and don’t mind walking my dog on my own, but I think young people really struggled missing out on their social lives.
What are the side effects of the vaccine in young people?
The main one is perhaps a bit of soreness in the arm. I had a sore arm after my first vaccine but nothing at all after my second.
It’s incredibly safe. I’m still amazed at how the researchers worked to get this to market as quickly as they did, running trials simultaneously without cutting safety corners.
Long Covid is a worry for many parents. Will the vaccine protect young people against it?
I have patients with long Covid. It is a horrible condition and there is evidence that the vaccine protects against this.
We’re still on a very steep learning curve with long Covid. It’s unpredictable. We have fit young people who have been knocked sideways by it. The things that people talk to me about is the fatigue, the brain fog – I’ve got patients who are very intelligent academics who just can’t function at work.
Is the vaccine suitable for vegans and people with food allergies?
It’s totally vegan-friendly and not a problem for those with allergies.
What about those who are scared of needles?
For the 12-to-15 age group, school nurses are well experienced in managing this. If you’re nervous you can ask to lie down. You can also buy over-the-counter cream to rub into your arm 20 minutes beforehand. I don’t even think I felt my second vaccine going in; it’s such a tiny needle. For a moment of a sharp scratch, to know that you’re protected against Covid it’s well worth the trade-off.
Has the vaccine been rigorously tested on the younger age group?
Yes, I feel very confident about the science behind it. There’s been a lot of debate on risk vs benefit in different age groups. Young people are less likely to get seriously ill, but we need to weigh that against missed education, protection from long Covid and letting kids get out and about again so that we can help them with any mental health issues. If you come from a middle-class background where you’ve all got your own computers, home schooling was much easier than if you’re all trying to share one screen, so it’s really important that we try to even out those differences and get people back into the classroom.
Last winter’s lockdown was so tough on young people’s mental health. Does the vaccine mean that things will be better this year? That would
be my hope. We’ll see messages coming out about meeting outside and ventilation; I still wear a mask in the supermarket; we have hand sanitiser in our bags and our cars, and I think that makes sense. But expanding the vaccine programme to include these younger people will mean that hopefully they can start to get back to some kind of normality.
How to get your jab
AGED 16 OR 17?
If you have a teenager who hasn’t booked their vaccine yet, you can give them a helping hand so that they don’t get left behind – and protect the rest of the family from serious illness. Jabs can now be booked online at nhs.uk/covidvaccination, or you can ask your GP or go to your nearest walk-in centre.
PARENT OR CARER OF A 12-15-YEAR-OLD?
Offering young people the vaccine is essential to prevent them missing school and help make sure they can carry on doing the things they love with their friends and family. Everyone in this age group will be offered a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine through their school’s immunisation programme, which already administers the HPV and MMR vaccines. Parents and guardians will be asked for their consent via a form – and if you have any questions you can discuss them with the School Age Immunisation Service.
Everyone aged 12 and over can now receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For more information go to nhs.co.uk/covidvaccine
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