COVID-19 Vaccines: Your FAQs Answered

Last updated 14/09/2021 at 15:38

Across Scotland, young people are being invited to have their COVID-19 vaccine, but who can get the vaccine and how do you get your appointment? We answer all of your frequently asked questions below. 

You can also watch a short video where we interview young people about their experiences of getting the vaccine.

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Everyone over the age of 12 in Scotland can get a COVID-19 vaccination from Monday 20th September. 

The Scottish Government has confirmed that based on a review carried out by the UK's four Chief Medical Officers, a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech will now be offered to all remaining 12-15 year olds. Some young people in this age group may have already been vaccinated following previous advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI). 

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) announced earlier this year that 16- and 17-year-olds can get a COVID-19 vaccine and they will be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This is in addition to people aged 18 or over who are also able to get the vaccine and who are offered either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. 

How do you get your appointment? 

If you're 18 or older

If you are 18 years old or over, you should have been contacted about arranging your first vaccination appointment. This may have been you being invited to self-register on the online registration portal or via a letter to the address that NHS Scotland has for you via your registered GP. The address your GP has for you must be kept up to date by you to help NHS Scotland offer you all the care you need.

If you have not received an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination, you can go to the NHS Inform self-registration portal to arrange an appointment.

You can also attend a drop-in centre, which are open in every local authority across Scotland, to get either your first dose or your second if you have had your first at least eight weeks ago. This can be done even if you have a scheduled vaccination appointment.

If you're 16 or 17 

If you're aged 16 or 17, you can now use the self-registration portal on the NHS Inform website.

Eligible young people in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles will be contacted by their health board about how to make arrangements to get vaccinated.

You can also go to a drop-in clinic from Tuesday 10th August. 16 and 17 year olds are being offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, so you will need to make sure that the drop-in clinic that you plan on visiting offers this vaccine. To find out, visit the NHS Inform page.

If you're 12 - 15

If you're aged 12 - 15 and are from one of the key groups that have been identified as at higher risk, your parent/carer will be contacted by NHS Scotland with an invite for your vaccine.

If you're 12 - 15 and live with someone who is immunosuppressed, your parent or carer will receive a letter and it will have information about how your parent or carer can register you for a vaccine by calling the national COVID-19 Vaccination Helpline on 0800 030 8013.

From Monday 20th September, drop-in clinics will be open for all remaining 12-15 year olds to get vaccinated.

From Monday 27th September, letters will be sent out to all remaining 12-15 year olds with an invitation to arrange a vaccine appointment.

A vaccine programme will also be introduced in schools to offer the vaccine to anyone who has not yet had it but would like to get one.

You will be supported with information needed to help you make an informed decision about getting vaccinated, you should look at this information and speak about the decision with your parents and carers to help you make a decision that is right for you.

There is more information about how your parent or carer will receive the invite for your appointment on the NHS Inform website. NHS Inform has a leaflet all about consent when it comes to health care decisions, you can download this from the NHS Inform website.

Check the NHS Inform website or social media pages of your local health board to get more information about where your nearest drop-in clinic is.

Visit our vaccine page for more information and to hear from other young people about their vaccine experiences.

Is the vaccine safe for 16- and 17-year- olds?

NHS Scotland will only use a vaccine if it meets the required standards of safety and effectiveness. All medicines, including vaccines, are tested for safety and effectiveness before they’re allowed to be used. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has to assess all the data and also ensure a vaccine works and that all the necessary trials and checks have been completed.

The MHRA will only approve a vaccine for supply in the UK if the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been authorised for use for those aged 12 years and over in the UK. Millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given worldwide. The vaccine is highly effective in children and young people.

Do you need parental consent to get the vaccine if you're aged 12 - 15?

Consent means agreement. Informed consent means that you have read, listened or watched information about something and understood it, before making a decision. 

If you are aged 12-15 years old and want to get vaccinated, you can give consent to do so as long as you can:

  • understand what is involved
  • decide things for yourself

A doctor or someone else who is looking after your health will need to make sure that you understand what getting vaccinated means and the possible effects before they confirm you are able to consent to it. They have to explain things to you in a way you can understand. If they don't do this, you should ask them to explain more clearly.

If you’re unhappy about their decision, you can contact a support organisation for help.

It is still a good idea to have a conversation with your parent(s) or carer about getting vaccinated as they will be able to help you with any questions or concerns as well as helping you access the information you need to make an informed decision.

You should ask your parents, carers or the health professional involved any questions that you would like answered that you think will help you make a decision. If you decide you want to get vaccinated, you will be given further support and information about the process when you go along to a vaccination centre. 

For more information about informed consent and your rights, you can visit NHS Inform.

Who can you talk to if you're worried about the vaccine?

It's natural to be worried about getting your vaccine. 

Speaking to someone about how you're feeling can really help, that might be an adult like a parent, carer, teacher or youth worker, or discussing how you're feeling with your friends. If you're not sure who to speak to, you can also get in touch with the below organisations:

  • Childline0800 1111 (open 365 days a year, 7:30am - 3:30am)
  • Samaritans116 123 (open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day)
  • Shout: Text Shout to 85258 (open 24/7)

For more information about how to look after your mental health and emotional wellbeing, visit our Aye Feel page

Are vaccines helping the number of cases decrease?

Due to restrictions easing in Scotland over the past several months, the number of positive cases of COVID-19 has risen compared to earlier in the year, this is because more people are interacting with each other and the virus has more opportunity to spread.

This makes it difficult to assess the impact of vaccination on the number of cases, however, getting vaccinated has been proven to reduce the transmission of coronavirus by as much as 90% in fully vaccinated people. This differs depending on the vaccine and the coronavirus variant.

While cases have risen in Scotland, the number of people with COVID-19 who are hospitalised, or die, has remained relatively low which suggests the rollout of vaccines has helped reduce the more serious impacts of the virus.

In the latest evidence from the REACT (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) a study on the 8th of July - people under the age of 65 who were unvaccinated had an infection rate more than three times higher than those who were double vaccinated (1.15% vs 0.35%).

What are the different vaccines / what one will you get? 

There are three approved vaccines in Scotland, these are: 

Currently, the advice from JCVI is that under 40’s (and over 15s) should be offered an mRNA vaccine type – such as Pfizer or Moderna – and this is what you will be offered to you now in Scotland.

The JCVI recommends that young people aged 12 - 17 should be offered the Pfizer BioNTech vaccination, following evidence from a clinical trial where 1,000 12 - 15 year olds received two doses of the vaccine. More information about the recommendations from the JCVI can be found on the UK Government website.

Some younger people had AstraZeneca vaccination as part of previous priority groups in the U.K. such as health and social care workers, carers and household contacts of those who are severely immunosuppressed. If you have already had a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine without suffering any serious side effects, you should complete the course (unless there is a medical reason for you not to have the same vaccine).

If you have any medical reasons that these vaccines will not suit you, the clinical staff at the vaccine clinic will discuss this with you. This may include for instance any known allergies you may have. Information about the vaccines and their ingredients can be found at:

You should not get a vaccine if you are allergic to any of the ingredients used in it. You can these by visiting the links for each below:

Does everyone need a second vaccine? 

All three vaccines approved for use recommend two doses for everyone aged 18 or over. This is because, although one dose will start to give you increased immunity to the virus after a few weeks, the second dose completes the course maximising the effectiveness of the vaccine and is likely to be important for longer-term protection. It is important to get both doses to protect yourself against coronavirus.

The second dose is normally given between 3 and 12 weeks after the first dose. Most people will be invited for their second dose of coronavirus vaccine at around 8 weeks after their first dose.

If you have had your first dose 8 or more weeks ago, you can go to a drop-in clinic to get your second dose before your appointment.

At this time, JCVI advises that 16 and 17 year olds should be offered a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The timing of a second dose will be confirmed later.

Additionally, young people aged 12 - 15 years old are only being offered one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

As previously advised by JCVI, those aged 12–17 with specific risk factors should be offered two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with an interval of 8 weeks between doses.

Some people aged 16–17 are already able to receive two doses of the vaccine, including if they are:

  • clinically extremely vulnerable, or have a specific underlying health condition
  • an unpaid carer or a regular household contact of another immunosuppressed person
  • a frontline health or social care worker
  • within 3 months of their 18th birthday.

Does the vaccine have COVID-19 in it? 

None of the three approved vaccines being used in Scotland contains the live COVID-19 virus.

The vaccines do not contain any animal products, eggs, gluten or wheat and are suitable for people with coeliac disease.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are known as mRNA vaccines, which means they use some material from the COVID-19 virus to help your body create an immune response to it. However, the protein it produces is harmless and is destroyed shortly after it is used.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is known as a viral vector vaccine, it uses a weakened version of a different virus, specifically a common cold virus found in chimpanzees called adenovirus. It has been modified to contain genetic material shared by the coronavirus although it cannot cause the illness. Once injected, it teaches the body to create an immune response to COVID-19 similar to how the mRNA vaccines work.

What are the potential side effects? 

All vaccines have potential side effects, but this doesn’t mean that the vaccine isn’t safe. When your body reacts to a vaccine it shows that the vaccine is teaching your body’s immune system how to protect itself from the disease. However, not everyone will get side effects. If you don’t, this doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working.

Most side effects will be mild (they can affect 1 in 10 people) and may last one or two days.

Side effects may include:

  • a sore arm from the injection
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick
  • a high temperature
  • feeling hot and shivery for a day or two

Reports of serious side effects of the COVID-19 are rare. If you experience any side effects, you can take painkillers to manage them (follow the instructions on or in the packet) or call 111 if they worsen or you are worried.

Worldwide, there have also been recent, rare cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis reported after COVID-19 vaccines, although it is not yet clear that these are caused by the vaccines.  These rare adverse reactions are being closely evaluated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and have been reported more frequently shortly after the second dose.

Hear from young people over on our Instagram account about their experiences of side effects after having the vaccine.

Read more about possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine on the NHS Inform site. 

Can you still get COVID-19 after having the vaccine? 

Yes, some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but the illness should be less severe. It is not yet known whether having the vaccine completely stops you spreading the virus to others, so it’s important that we all continue to follow the latest government advice.

No vaccine is 100% effective, however, scientific studies have shown that your chances of infection after having 1 or 2 doses are significantly reduced.

It can take several weeks for your immunity to build up after getting vaccinated. And whilst you may still contract COVID-19 your body will recognise this virus and respond effectively. Therefore, you should continue to follow any restrictions and following the FACTS.

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant people? 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant people should be offered COVID-19 vaccines and you can have your vaccine at any time during pregnancy.

The available data does not indicate any harm to pregnancy from having the COVID-19 vaccine, however, there have not been any large-scale clinical trials. Over 51,000 pregnant women in England and 4,000 in Scotland have received a vaccine. In the USA, around 90,000 pregnant people have had the vaccine and no safety concerns have been identified.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have produced guidance to help you make an informed decision. 

If you’re unsure and have questions about whether to get the vaccine, you will have an opportunity to talk with medical professionals to raise any concerns prior to consenting to vaccination.

Find out more on the NHS Inform website.

Does vaccination affect fertility? 

There is no evidence to suggest the COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility in women or men. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommend women who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.

The latest evidence shows that the vaccine is safe for those undergoing fertility treatment although timing around both treatments should be considered and discussed with your fertility experts to make sure that you get the treatment and support that’s right for you. There is no need to delay fertility treatment after having the COVID-19 vaccine. 

If you’re unsure or have questions, you can seek fertility advice from your local Health Care professionals for accurate information and guidance.

Find out more on the UK Government website.

If you have had COVID-19 and recovered, do you need to get vaccinated? 

The Royal College of Nursing advises that people previously infected with COVID-19 should still get vaccinated as there are no safety concerns and vaccination would be expected to boost any natural immunity.

Scientific studies carried out suggest that COVID-19 infection does offer natural immunity similar to vaccination, although it is not known how long this lasts.

How long does protection last after vaccination and will you need a booster dose? 

It’s not possible based on current scientific data to say exactly how long immunity from COVID-19 lasts after either vaccination or previous infection.

The Joint Commission on Vaccinations and Immunisation advice on booster jabs has been accepted by the Scottish Government, which means the following people will be eligible for a booster jab:

  • Those living in residential care homes for older adults
  • All adults aged 50 years or over
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • All those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19
  • Adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals

The JCVI has recommended that there is a gap of at least six months between getting the second dose of the vaccine and getting a booster.

Frontline Health and Social care workers can book their appointment through the NHS Inform website from Monday 20th September. 

Find out more on the NHS Inform website.

Hear from a vaccinator

For general Information on All Covid Vaccine Related Questions, please visit the NHS Inform coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine website or download the Public Health Scotland COVID-19 Vaccination booklet.

For more information about COVID-19 in Scotland head to our coronavirus page.