COVID-19 information for children and young people
Last updated: 24 September 2021
The coronavirus has been a worrying time, especially if you have a condition like arthritis.
Healthcare professionals who look after young people with arthritis and similar conditions, including related eye conditions, have been studying the latest information about the virus.
They’ve found no evidence that children and young people with arthritis are more likely to get COVID-19.
They’re also able to say that having a condition like arthritis does not mean young people will become more unwell if they do get COVID-19. This is true even if you are on medication that dampens down your immune system.
Now that young people can have the vaccine, we have put some of your questions about this topic to doctors.
This advice from paediatric and adolescent rheumatology and ophthalmology healthcare professionals is for children and young people aged up to 18. If you have a different health condition as well, specialists covering that condition may have different advice.
For more information, visit the Public Health England website and read their information for children and young people about the COVID-19 vaccination. If you’re aged 16 and over, for more information read Vaccines for COVID-19 – your questions answered.
Resources for parents and carers
For more information, read the COVID-19 resources for parents and carers on the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health website.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine live?
No, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine being offered to young people is not a live vaccine.
Live vaccines contain a weakened virus. This allows the immune system, which protects us from illnesses, to recognise this virus and protect us in the future if that virus gets into our body. But, people whose immune system isn’t working properly and have an autoimmune condition, like JIA, are often given drugs to stop their immune system from being so active. This means that they might not be able to have live vaccines.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine isn’t live. It’s called an mRNA vaccine. These types of vaccines teach cells in our body to create proteins, like those found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. After making the protein, our immune system recognises that it is from outside the body and takes action to get rid of it.
Is the vaccine safe for young people taking drugs that suppress the immune system, such as steroids, biological therapies and methotrexate?
Doctors have looked at all the information from around the world about how young people have responded to the vaccine. From this, doctors can say that young people with conditions like JIA are as safe taking the vaccine as young people who don’t have conditions like JIA.
Also, many adults on these drugs in the UK and around the world have had the COVID-19 vaccination, and there have not been any safety issues for them.
Is it ok to have the vaccine if I am having a flare?
The information that doctors have been looking at from countries where young people have been given the vaccine does not show it causes any problems to underlying conditions.
Could having the vaccine cause my arthritis to flare?
There is nothing to suggest from other countries where young people have been having the vaccination, that the vaccine causes flares of conditions like JIA.
Do I need to stop my medication to have the vaccine?
No, it’s important that you don’t stop taking your medication for arthritis.
Can I have my usual medication, even if it is an injection, on the same day as the vaccine?
Yes, you should continue taking all your medication, including on the day of a vaccination. There is no evidence that the vaccine will stop your medication for arthritis working properly or make you feel poorly if you take it on the same day.
If you take medication as an injection, such as methotrexate or adalimumab, you could talk to your rheumatology team about having it on a different day to your vaccination if you want to.
Are there any times when a child or young person shouldn’t have the vaccine?
Only if someone is known to have an allergy to part of a vaccine, and that would be the same for children and adults. This will be discussed with you before you have the vaccine.
If I have arthritis, am I more likely to get side effects from the vaccine?
There isn’t anything to suggest in the information currently available that there will be any difference in the side effects young people with arthritis experience from the vaccine, compared to those without arthritis.
Is it safe for me to be in school if others aren’t vaccinated?
Yes, young people with arthritis are at no increased risk of getting very poorly from COVID-19. Going to school is very important for your education and your mental health.
I’ve only recently been diagnosed with arthritis, and I’ve not started any treatment, would should I do?
Rheumatology doctors would recommend you have the vaccine. If you need an evidence letter to book your vaccination, talk to your healthcare team.
Medication and treatments
Is it safe to continue taking my immune-suppressing medication?
Yes, if you stop any medication you may be more at risk of a flare-up of your arthritis.
There is no evidence that children and young people with arthritis and related conditions are at any more risk of getting COVID-19. This includes young people who are on drugs that suppress the immune system.
Talk to your rheumatology team if you have any questions or concerns.
I’ve been told to have my medication as an injection, when I normally have it as an infusion. Is there any help I can have with this?
Your rheumatology team will let you know what support is available.
Many young people feel happy to give themselves injections once they have been shown how to do it. Another option is to have a family member give you the injection.
If you’re struggling, contact your rheumatology team for help.
We're here for you at any time
If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.
- Read our latest coronavirus information and advice.
- If you would like to talk to someone, you can call our free helpline on 0800 5200 520 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm).
- If you’re over 18, you can join our young people’s forum on our online community to chat to others like you.
- Check out our Arthritis Tracker app to track your symptoms from pain, fatigue and emotional wellbeing. Download for free iPhone on the Apple App Store and for Android on Google Play.
- Stay in touch and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
- Find out more about the support and events for young people and families available in your area.