Public Health Scotland (PHS) is encouraging young people to take up the offer of routine vaccines at school as the latest statistics show a decline in vaccine uptake rates among this group.

In Scotland, a number of vaccines are offered to young people in secondary school to provide them with long-term protection against serious diseases. It’s therefore important young people take up the offer of these vaccines that are routinely offered in school. 

The DTP vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio and MenACWY protects against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Both are offered to pupils in S3, at around 14 years of age, to complete the childhood vaccination course.

Our most recent data also shows that boys were less likely to receive the DTP and MenACWY vaccines than girls. This is also true for the school-based Human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme, which helps to protect young people from HPV-related cancers later in life. This includes head, neck and anogenital cancers with the most common being cervical cancer.

HPV is a common virus which usually produces no symptoms and is usually spread through sexual contact. This means that people may not even know they’re carrying the virus. All S1 pupils are eligible for the HPV vaccine in Scotland and getting the vaccine now protects against future risks.  

The DTP, MenACWY and HPV vaccines are offered through vaccination clinics at school. Consent packs consisting of a letter, consent form(s) and leaflet are sent home with young people from school. Consent forms will start to be issued as early as the end of November by some Health Boards with vaccination taking place between January and March next year.

A national campaign, Chat. Sign. Protect., which is focused on encouraging young people to talk to their parents or carers about taking up the offer of these vaccines and signing and returning their forms to school has also been launched.

Dr Claire Cameron, Consultant in Health Protection, PHS said:

“Diseases like diphtheria and tetanus were responsible for a large number of deaths, including among children, every year before vaccinations were available. Some of the diseases that these vaccines protect against have almost disappeared from the UK as a result of so many people being vaccinated against them over the years. However, cases of meningitis still occur throughout the year and young people are at an increased risk due to the contact they have with others both in and outside of school. We need to maintain high vaccination uptake rates to reduce the risk of infections occurring.

“Being vaccinated is the best thing you can do to help protect against serious vaccine preventable diseases. We’re encouraging young people to chat to their parents or carers about the free vaccines offered, before signing and returning consent forms to school by the deadline.”

Read the 'Teenage Booster Immunisation statistics report'

Read the 'HPV Immunisation statistics report'

Last updated: 28 November 2023