11 key questions Merton parents are asking about the COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds

The NHS roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations for 12 to 15-year-olds is now well underway through Merton schools. Our immunisation teams are making their way around the borough, with the aim of completing the first round of visits by the end of November. Don’t worry if your child is absent from school when our team visits, or is unable to be vaccinated for another reason. As well as making return visits, teenagers can now be vaccinated in other venues on selected days. Find out more here.

On 7 October, we held a Q&A webinar attended by more than 200 Merton parents. Our panel of experts included Merton GP Dr Andrew Murray and chief pharmacist for the borough Sedina Agama. If you missed the event, you can listen to a recording here, or read on for answers to some of parents’ key questions.

1. What if my child isn’t yet 12 – will they get the vaccine?

We are able to vaccinate children aged 12 and above, on the day our teams go into their school. However, we’re also developing a process for 12 to 15-year-olds can now be vaccinated during half term at vaccination centres across South West London. You can book a slot on the national booking system. So, there will be more opportunities for your child to get the vaccine as soon as they reach 12.

2. Why are you vaccinating this age group?

The chief medical officers took into account the effects of post COVID on young people, as well as the impact of missing school. They also looked at the wider implications for society, such as the risk of passing the virus to elderly relatives or others who might become sick. On balance, they decided these factors made a compelling case for giving the vaccine to this age group.

3. If my child has had COVID, are there further benefits of getting the vaccine?

We still recommend it, because we know that immunity though the vaccine strengthens your own natural immunity. However, your child should wait until 28 days have passed since the date of a positive COVID test.

4. Should I be concerned about reports of inflammation of the heart in some young people?

No. The condition, called myocarditis, is an extremely rare, potential side effect of the vaccine, but it is also a side effect of COVID-19. The number of cases of myocarditis among those who’ve been vaccinated is very small and these young people haven’t become seriously ill. We also know those who contracted it recovered. Among those who have contracted myocarditis after having COVID-19, the numbers are still low, but it can be very serious and life-threatening.

.. And what should I look out for?

The condition is incredibly rare, but the symptoms include a stabbing pain or tightness in the chest, significant breathlessness and abnormal heart rhythm. Regardless of whether you’ve had the vaccine, you should take those seriously and seek urgent medical attention.

5. Secondary-aged students are getting the flu vaccine this year – will it be given at the same time as the COVID vaccine in schools?

Not as part of our schools’ programme in Merton. There is no problem with administering the two vaccines together, but for some people it does feel too much, so we will be doing it separately in schools.

6. How does the vaccine protect others when you can still pass it on?

If you’ve been vaccinated, your risk of catching COVID goes down, so you are less likely to pass it on. If you do catch it, you fight it off and have milder symptoms, so the level of virus in the blood is lower, which also means you’re less likely to transmit it.

7. My son panics when he sees needles – what can I do to support him?

This is a common issue, which our school teams are very used to dealing with. Our nurses are really experienced and will use practised methods to minimise anxiety and stress – and we have allowed enough time to put young people at ease. As a parent, please reassure your child of this. We also recommend you ask your school to inform the vaccination team if your child has a particular needle phobia. Read more about needle phobia on our blog.

8. What if my child faints?

The nursing team will look after them, making sure they have time to recover and have a drink and small snack. We wouldn’t return them to class until we are sure they are all right.

9. Can I, as a parent, attend the school to support my child if they are anxious?

We aren’t encouraging parents to come to school, apart from in exceptional circumstances, because of the volume of children being vaccinated. But our teams are flexible so, if you are concerned, please let your headteacher know. We are now offering the vaccine to this age group at vaccination centres across South West London where parents are able to attend. You can book a slot on the national booking system

10. What if my child has allergies?

We ask parents to inform us of any allergies on the consent form and we will ask the young person before giving the vaccine. If there’s a lack of clarity or we can’t be sure, we won’t carry out the vaccination. Very few patients are allergic to the vaccine – it hasn’t been an issue in our clinics so far.

11. What if we still have concerns?

You can pop into any of our vaccination clinics to talk to our staff. We might not be able to immunise your child there and then, but we can answer questions. You can also email hrch.schoolcovid19vaccine@nhs.net and we will get in touch to answer your questions.

Read more about the vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds in Merton on the South West London and NHS websites.

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Press Office SWL CCG
South West London CCG