Vaccines for young people

Find out what vaccines you'll be offered during secondary school and which diseases they'll protect you against.

Protect yourself and your community against serious diseases by keeping up to date with your vaccinations.

When you'll be offered each vaccine

Here's some information on the vaccines you'll be offered as a young person in Scotland and the diseases they'll protect you from. 

Vaccine

When you'll be offered the vaccine

Influenza (Flu)

Every year from age 2 until S6

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

S1 and S2

Tetanus, diphtheria and polio (Td/IPV)

S3

Meningitis ACWY (MenACWY)

S3

Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)

Your MMR vaccine status will be checked between S1 and S3 by NHS Scotland, to make sure you've received 2 doses

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Age 12 and over

How the vaccines are given

Vaccines are given in different ways, mostly by injection, but the flu vaccine is usually given to young people as a nasal (nose) spray.

If you don't want to get the nasal spray vaccine for religious reasons, you can request to be given the flu vaccine by injection.

What is immunisation?

Immunisation protects you against serious diseases. Once immunised, your body is better at fighting these diseases if you come into contact with them.

All vaccines in the immunisation programme are provided free in Scotland by the NHS.

Vaccination means having a vaccine.

Immunisation means both having a vaccine and becoming immune to a disease, as a result of getting the vaccine.

Diseases like diphtheria, which used to harm and even kill a large number of children every year, have almost disappeared from the UK because so many people now get vaccinated. 

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are the safest way to protect against disease. All medicines (including vaccines) are tested to assess their safety and effectiveness.

The safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) once they're in use.

How do I give consent?

If you're having a vaccine at school, consent packs containing a letter, leaflet and consent form will be issued to you and your parents or carers before vaccinations begin.

Both you and your parent or carer will be asked to sign a consent form and return it to your school. Even if you don't want to be immunised, you should still return the consent form.

For vaccines offered outside of school, for example travel vaccines, you may not be asked to sign a consent form. Instead you'll be asked to confirm consent by attending your appointment and telling the person giving the vaccine that you consent.

Understanding consent (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz5PqUmENA4)

This animation explains how young people under 16 can give consent before getting a vaccine.

On the day of your vaccine

The person giving you the vaccine will explain the process to you. 

Do

  • wear something suitable to make it easy to access your upper arm for vaccinations by injection
  • make sure you go to school on the day of vaccination - if you miss it, talk to your school and you’ll be invited to the next one
  • have the vaccine if you have a minor illness, as long as you don't have a fever

Don't

  • have your vaccine if you're ill with a fever

If you're nervous or have a fear of needles speak to the person giving you your vaccine - they can support you.

After the vaccine

It's common to experience some side effects such as swelling, tenderness or redness where you were given the injection. Sometimes a small painless lump develops. These side effects should disappear on their own.

Other side effects are rare but include fever, dizziness, feeling sick and swollen glands.

Very rarely, some people experience an anaphylactic reaction (serious allergic reaction) soon after vaccination. This can cause difficulty breathing and may cause them to collapse. The person giving you your vaccine is fully trained to deal with this extremely rare type of reaction.

If you feel unwell or are worried, speak to your parent or carer.

Urgent advice: Phone your GP, or 111 if your GP surgery is closed, if you have:

  • a temperature of 39°C or above
  • a fit

If you think you might be seriously ill, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical attention.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by helping the body's immune system make antibodies (substances that fight off infection). If you come into contact with the infection once immunised, the antibodies recognise the infection and help protect you.

Vaccines have either a very weak form of the germ or virus that causes a disease, or a small part of it.

What if I've missed my vaccination?

If you miss a vaccination, your local health board will be in touch to rearrange your appointment.

If you've left school or are unsure if you've missed any vaccinations, speak to your GP.

Will I need any other vaccines?

If you have a long term health condition, such as asplenia, you may be offered other vaccines.

You may need additional vaccines if you're travelling abroad. Further information can be found on the NHS Scotland Fit for Travel website.