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.
When you'll be offered the vaccine
Every year from age 2 until S6
Your MMR vaccine status will be checked between S1 and S3 by NHS Scotland, to make sure you've received 2 doses
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=eEgOWRXnN5Q)
This animation explains how young people under 16 can give consent before getting a vaccine.
Understanding consent video - British Sign Language (BSL)
On the day of your vaccine
The person giving you the vaccine will explain the process to you.
- 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 like a cold, as long as you don't have a fever
- tell the person giving you the vaccine if you have a bleeding disorder - this is so they can give the injection in a different way that will be better for you
- tell the person giving you the vaccine if you've had a severe reaction to any vaccination in the past
- do not 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 like 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 can include:
- feeling sick
- swollen glands
- muscle aches
- loss of appetite
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 have had a severe reaction to an immunisation in the past, it’s important that you include the details of this on your consent form. It’s also important you let the person giving you the vaccine know on the day.
If you feel unwell or are worried, speak to your parent/carer.
Where to report side effects
You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme on their website, using the Yellow Card app, or by calling 0800 731 6789 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Urgent advice: Phone your GP immediately if you:
- have a temperature of 39°C or above
- feel unwell and are worried about your health
If your GP is closed, phone NHS 24 on 111.
Immediate action required: Phone 999 immediately if:
- you're having a fit
If you think you might be seriously ill, trust your instincts and go to your nearest emergency department.
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 at school, your local health board will be in touch to rearrange your appointment.
If you've left school, you can arrange a vaccination by contacting your local health board's vaccination team.
If you're unsure if you've missed a vaccination, you can contact your GP to check your vaccination record.
Will I need any other vaccines?
If you have a long term health condition, like asplenia, you may be offered other vaccines.
If you're a young man (or were assigned male at birth) who has sex with men, and you weren't offered the HPV vaccine at school, you're still eligible for the vaccine. You can arrange to get the vaccine at your local sexual health and HIV clinic.
You may need additional vaccines if you're travelling abroad. Further information can be found on the NHS Scotland Fit for Travel website.