Deciding on COVID-19 vaccination for 12 to 15 year olds

Vaccine registration is open for children aged 12 to 15.

We recommend that this age group get a COVID-19 vaccine.

We particularly recommend that they get vaccinated if they:

  • have a health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19
  • lives with someone who is at higher risk of COVID-19

Getting your child vaccinated is a decision between you and your child. Read advice on this page to help you decide.

Benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine​​

COVID-19 vaccines should protect your child from getting seriously ill from COVID-19 if they have certain health conditions.

It will also protect healthy 12 to 15 year old children from:

  • mild to severe COVID-19 illness
  • multisystem inflammatory syndrome due to COVID-19
  • the risk of developing ‘long COVID' symptoms, such as tiredness and fatigue
  • spreading COVID-19 to others

Children who are vaccinated will be less likely to miss school and other activities because of being ill with COVID-19.

COVID-19 and children aged 12 to 15

Most children aged 12 to 15 who get COVID-19 have very mild symptoms or no symptoms. 

But children who get COVID-19 need to isolate from other people even if their symptoms are mild. This is to stop the spread of the virus. They need to stay at home for at least 10 days from when they develop symptoms or test positive. 

Serious illness is rare

It is rare that COVID-19 causes serious illness, hospitalisation or death in children. 

The risk of a child being hospitalised because of COVID-19 is low, and the risk of any child needing intensive care treatment is extremely low.

Read more about levels of illness and hospitalisation in children

Children with certain health conditions are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. They are more likely to have to go to hospital with COVID-19.

Data from the United States shows that around 7 in 10 children admitted to hospital have an existing underlying condition.

In extremely rare cases COVID-19 can cause a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

MIS-C is also known as paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS). It causes pneumonia, inflammation of the heart and difficulty breathing. It can cause death.

We don’t know yet if there is a risk of long-lasting side effects from COVID-19 in children. This is sometimes called 'long COVID'.

Evidence shows vaccines are safe

Children in Ireland aged 12 to 15 can get the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

From 3 September, the HSE will only offer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to children aged 12 to 15.

Both vaccines are approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as safe and effective. They are recommended in Ireland by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

Thousands of people worldwide have been vaccinated as part of clinical trials.

This includes:

  • more than 2,000 children aged 12 to 15 for the Pfizer clinical trial
  • 3,700 children aged 12 to 17 for the Moderna clinical trial

No new safety concerns were reported in children aged 12 to 15 after these trials.

Read information from the EMA about the:

Children who should not get a COVID-19 vaccine

A COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for most children aged 12 to 15.

But the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are not recommended if your child has:

  • had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in either of these vaccines, including polyethylene glycol or PEG
  • been told by a doctor that they should not have the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
  • had myocarditis after a previous dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is not recommended if your child has had a severe allergic reaction to Trometamol - a contrast dye used in MRI radiological studies. 

Talk to your child’s doctor before getting the vaccine if your child has had:

  • a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in the past, including to any other vaccine or medication
  • pericarditis after a previous dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

If you decide not to get your child vaccinated

You may decide to wait until more information is available about COVID-19 vaccines in children and young people before deciding to get a vaccine.

If you decide not to get your child vaccinated, there is a greater risk they could get COVID-19. Their symptoms will most likely be mild if they get the virus, but they will still need to isolate from others. This means they may miss school and other activities.

You will need to take extra care to protect your 12 to 15 year old against COVID-19.

Different views among parents or guardians

People aged 15 or younger will need the consent of one parent or legal guardian to get vaccinated.

If parents or joint guardians do not agree about getting your child vaccinated, you should discuss and try to resolve this between yourselves before registering your child.

You can also talk to your child’s GP about any concerns you may have about COVID-19 vaccines. Talk to your child about vaccination as their opinion is important also.

If a vaccinator, including your GP or pharmacist, is notified that one parent or guardian does not consent to the child being vaccinated, the vaccine should not be given. 

Read more about COVID-19 vaccine consent for 12 to 15 year olds

Side effects in children aged 12 to 15

Vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild or moderate in children and do not last long. Side effects can include a sore arm, fever or tiredness.

Very rarely some children aged 12 or over develop inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) and the outer lining of the heart (pericarditis). The risk of myocarditis is higher in boys after their second dose.

Data from the United States estimates that the risk of myocarditis in boys aged 12 to 17 is about 1 in 16,000. In girls of the same age, the risk is 1 in 100,000. This is after they got their second dose.

Most people recover from myocarditis and pericarditis on their own but they may need treatment in hospital. We don’t yet know if there are any long-term problems because of these side effects.

Read about potential side effects after the:

If your child is getting other vaccines

Your child may be getting a number of different vaccines because of their age. There is no problem with getting a COVID-19 vaccine and a different vaccine at the same time or at any interval.

If they are getting 2 vaccines around the same time it’s best to get vaccinated in different arms. This is to reduce the chance of having a sore arm after vaccination.

If your child has had COVID-19

If your child has had COVID-19, they can be vaccinated from 4 weeks after they first developed symptoms or 4 weeks after their positive test if they had no symptoms.

If they had the virus in the last 9 months, they will have some immunity to the virus. But getting the vaccine should reduce the risk of them getting COVID-19 again.

This content was fact checked by vaccine experts working in Ireland.

Last updated: 9 September 2021 at 12.10pm