All parents, or those with parental responsibility, are asked for consent and will usually make this decision jointly with their children. The information leaflet is addressed to the child (as the recipient of the vaccine) and encourages them to discuss the decision about the vaccine with their parents.
In secondary schools, some young people may be mature enough to provide their own consent. This sometimes occurs if a parent has not returned a consent form but the child still wishes to have the vaccine on the day of the session. Every effort will be made to contact the parent to seek their verbal consent.
This is a well-established process which you will be familiar with from other school-based vaccination programmes.
Who decides whether a young person can give their own consent?
In secondary schools, some young people will be mature enough to provide their own consent. Healthcare professionals from the schools immunisation team will speak to the young person and make every effort to contact the parent. These professionals have expertise in vaccinating young people and will be responsible for assessing whether they have enough understanding to self-consent (this is called ‘Gillick competence’).
Can parents, guardians or carers refuse to have their child vaccinated?
Yes. The vaccine is not mandatory. Parents will be asked to give their consent for the vaccine. Young people may express a wish to have the vaccine and may have the capacity to provide informed consent themselves. Parents should be encouraged to speak to their children ahead of time so that there is agreement on consent in advance of the vaccination session.
If no consent is received, and the young person is not Gillick competent or does not want to be vaccinated, the immunisation will not proceed.
What happens if a parent, guardian or carer has not consented, but the young person wants to be vaccinated?
Young people who understand fully what is involved in a proposed procedure, such as vaccination, can legally give consent. This is known as ‘Gillick competence’.
If no consent from a parent has been received, but the young person wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent by the the healthcare professional, the young person can still be vaccinated. In this case, the school age immunisation service provider will make every effort to contact a parent, to try and reach agreement between the parent and young person. However, the parent cannot overrule the decision of a Gillick competent young person.