Covid: What do under-30s need to know about the vaccine?

By Philippa Roxby
Health reporter

image sourcePA Media

Everyone aged 16 and over can now receive the Covid vaccine, the government has said.

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 16 and 17-year-olds?

Those aged 16 and 17 are to be offered a first dose. It has not been decided yet how soon they should receive a second vaccine.

There are currently no plans to offer the jab to 12-15-year-olds in the UK.

How many young people have been vaccinated?

Under-30s only became eligible for the Covid vaccine in June.

About two-thirds of 18-29-year-olds in England have received at least one jab. In Scotland, the figure is about 70%.

How can I get my vaccine?

In England, book online or call 119. There are also walk-in clinics where you don’t need an appointment. Check your local health providers and social media groups for details.

In Scotland, over-18s can register on the NHS inform website or by calling 0800 030 8013. Over-18s can also get jabbed without an appointment at various mass vaccination centres. Check local websites and social media for details.

In Wales, over-18s have been offered the vaccine.

In Northern Ireland, over-18s can book online or call 0300 200 7813

What vaccine will I get and can I choose?

You can’t choose what vaccine you get. 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.

What are the side effects?

Most 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
  • tiredness
  • fever
  • headache
  • 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.

media captionWhy it is normal for some people to experience short-term side effects from Covid-19 vaccines

What is Gillick competence?

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”. This is known as Gillick competent.

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.

Can I drink alcohol after the vaccine?

There’s no evidence to suggest you should avoid alcohol altogether, but drinking in large quantities can suppress your immune system.

Does the vaccine affect periods?

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.

media captionWhy it’s recommended you get the Covid vaccine if you’re pregnant

What if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

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.

What if I’ve got long Covid?

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.

What’s the point of getting the Covid vaccine if people are still ending up in hospital?’

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.

Do I have to have the vaccine?

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.

media captionCovid vaccine: How are young people responding to the jab?

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.

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