Vaccines for students

As your college or university term begins, remember to check your vaccines are up-to-date. Read about keeping yourself protected from serious diseases.

Infectious diseases can spread easily in college and university communities. More face-to-face contact means you're at higher risk of catching and passing on infectious diseases.

What am I eligible for?

It’s really important for all students to ensure they're up-to-date with their vaccines for:

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

All vaccines are given as an injection.

What about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

Most students will have had the HPV vaccine at school. If you missed it, you may still be eligible for the vaccine.

If you are a student (from Scotland or from overseas) and have not been offered the vaccine, you first need to register with a GP practice local to your new address.

You'll be eligible for the HPV vaccine if:

  • you were assigned female at birth and are under 25
  • you were assigned male at birth and started secondary school during or after the 2019/2020 school year
  • you were assigned male at birth, have sex with men (MSM), and are aged up to and including 45 years old

Men who have sex with men are offered the vaccine because they're known to have a higher risk of HPV infection due to not being protected by the girls' HPV programme.

Read more about the HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men

Read more about the HPV vaccine

What about the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Some students who have a weakened immune system or certain eligible health conditions may be offered the coronavirus vaccine.

Read more about the coronavirus vaccine

I’m not sure if I’ve missed any vaccinations

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If you're not sure if you're up to date on all your vaccines, phone your GP practice. They'll check your records and advise if it's clinically appropriate for you to receive any vaccines or further doses.

Contact your local GP practice

If you've come to Scotland from overseas, you may be eligible for free vaccines that aren't available where you lived previously.

Read more about healthcare for those coming from overseas, and registering with a GP practice

What if I've missed my vaccination?

If you've missed any vaccination, make sure you try and get it as soon as possible. To arrange a vaccine appointment, contact your local health board.

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.

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

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.

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.

On the day of your vaccine

The person giving you the vaccine will explain the process to you. Let them know if you:

  • are severely immunosuppressed
  • have recently had another vaccine
  • are pregnant
  • are planning a pregnancy

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


  • wear something suitable so that it's easy to access your upper arm for injections
  • have the vaccine if you've a minor illness, as long as you don't have a fever


  • do not have your vaccine if you're ill with a fever

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.

Read more about common side effects of immunisations

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 trained to deal with this extremely rare type of reaction.

Immediate action required: Phone 999 immediately if:

  • you have a fit

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

Urgent advice: Phone your GP immediately if:

  • you have a temperature of 39°C or above

If your GP surgery is closed, call 111.

Student Health

NHS Inform is there to help you stay healthy at school or university. It has health information to help you look after your own health and wellbeing.

You can search for particular topics, or look up your symptoms to access self-help guides and advice.

These guides show you the next steps, such as who to call, or which service to go to, and how urgently. These guides are produced by the same clinical team who support the 111 phone service.

Read more about staying healthy while at college or university

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