Your questions

Here we answer your questions about the vaccination against COVID-19.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe, effective and will save lives. They will give you the best protection against coronavirus.

Find out if you’re eligible to get the jab

It’s never too late to get the COVID-19 vaccine – if you have any concerns, speak to your GP or a healthcare professional.

If you’d like to print the Q&A please download the pdf.

COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus. It is very infectious and can lead to severe respiratory disease.

Many people who are infected may not have any symptoms or only have mild symptoms. These commonly start with a cough, fever, headache and loss of taste or smell.

Some people will feel very tired, have aching muscles, diarrhoea and vomiting, fever and confusion. 

A small number of people then go on to have severe disease which may mean they are admitted to hospital. For more information, please visit the gov.uk website.

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.

In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at local centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres. More centres are opening all the time.

It is being given to:

  • people aged 18 and over
  • people at high risk from coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable)
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • health and social care workers
  • people with a condition that puts them at higher risk (clinically vulnerable)
  • people with a learning disability
  • people who are a main carer for someone at high risk from coronavirus

Read the latest JCVI advice on priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination at gov.uk.

If you’re eligible to get a vaccine, you can book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now by visiting nhs.uk or calling 119, or you can wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service.

Statement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) following reports of an extremely rare adverse event after vaccination with the first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward or, if you are eligible, you can visit one of our walk-in clinics. More information on walk-ins and temporary pop-up clinics is available here.

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines have been approved for use in the UK and are now available. The Moderna vaccine has also been approved for use and is expected to be available by Spring 2021.

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

The vaccine works by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection. The protein works in the same way they do for other vaccines by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection.

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety.

Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

So far, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or clotting problems, have been very
rare.

Find out more about the vaccines approved in the UK:

There have been reports of a very rare condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after vaccination. This is being carefully reviewed but the risk factors for this condition are not yet clear.

Some people with this condition have suffered life changing effects and some have died. These cases are being carefully reviewed but the risk factors for this condition are not yet clear.

Although this condition remains extremely rare there is a higher risk in people after the first dose of the AZ vaccine.

To date and overall, just over 10 people develop this condition for every million doses of AZ vaccine given. This is seen more often in younger people and tends to occur between 4 days and 4 weeks following vaccination.

Similar conditions can also occur naturally, and clotting problems are a common complication of coronavirus (Covid-19) infection.

An increased risk has not yet been seen after other Covid-19 vaccines in the UK. Find out more about Covid-19 vaccination and blood clotting on GOV.UK

In the current situation the JCVI has advised that it is preferable for people in this age group to have a vaccine other than AZ. You are more at risk of the serious consequences of COVID-19 and will have the most benefit from being vaccinated if you are older, male, from certain minority ethnic backgrounds, in some occupations, or are obese.
It is important that you have the vaccination as soon as possible to protect you and to reduce the chance of passing on the virus. If the situation changes and you are offered the AZ vaccination you may go ahead
after you have considered all the risks and benefits. Please carefully consider the risk to both you and your family and friends of COVID-19 before making your decision

Currently JCVI has advised that it is preferable for people under 30 to have a vaccine other than AZ because the risk from COVID-19 infection is so low. If you are offered the AZ vaccination you may wish to go ahead after you have considered all the risks and benefits for you.

If you have already had a first dose of AZ vaccine without suffering this rare side effect you should complete the course. This includes people aged 18 to 39 years who are health and social care workers, unpaid carers and family members of those who are immunosuppressed. It is expected that the first dose of the vaccine will have given you some protection, particularly against severe disease.

Having the second dose will give you higher and longer lasting protection and tends to cause less of the common side effects (including short lived headache).

No, the COVID-19 vaccine is free and is available through the NHS to eligible groups.

The NHS will never ask you to pay for your vaccine, share any bank details/passwords or any documents such as a passport or driver’s license. If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the police online or by calling 101.

No. Vaccinations are only available through the NHS. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, or a GP surgery local to you, to receive your vaccine.

Remember, the vaccine is free of charge.

  • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
  • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
  • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
  • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the Police online or by calling 101.

The 1st dose of the Covid-19 vaccine should give you good protection from COVID-19 from 3 or 4 weeks after you’ve had it. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection. There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine. This means it is important to:

  • continue to follow social distancing guidance
  • if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to stay away from other people

There is no evidence currently that the new strains will be resistant to the vaccines we have, so we are continuing to vaccinate people as normal.

Scientists are looking now in detail at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective.

People are being offered their second vaccine earlier as part of plans to tackle the spread of the Delta variant first identified in India.

The vaccines have been developed and trialled in the same way as other medicines and vaccines available in the UK but there are a number of reasons why they have been developed quickly compared to other medicines.

This includes:

  • The different phases of the vaccine trial were run at the same time, rather than one after the other, which sped up the clinical process.
  • The data from the trials was shared with the MHRA as soon as it was available, rather than waiting until the end.
  • Funding for all of the trials was available at every stage, so there were no delays often caused by seeking funding to continue.

Thousands of people were recruited to take part in the clinical trial very quickly, as it was a global effort and many people wanted to volunteer.

No. Any vaccines that the NHS will provide will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get, it is worth their while.

Most side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a few days, such as:

  • a sore arm where the needle went in
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to.

You may get a high temperature or feel hot or shivery 1 or 2 days after having your vaccination. But if you have a high temperature that lasts longer than 2 days, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste you may have COVID-19. Stay at home and get a test.

If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111

There are no plans for a COVID-19 vaccine to be compulsory.

If you’re pregnant, you should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when you’re eligible for it. It’s preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine because they’ve been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and have not caused any safety issues.

You can also have the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re breastfeeding. Speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination. They will discuss the benefits and risks with you.

There’s no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant. There’s no need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

If you are suffering from ‘long covid’ and you are eligible for a vaccination, you should discuss this with your GP or another healthcare professional who will be able to advise you on whether or not to get the vaccine.

There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.

This means it is important to:

  • continue to follow social distancing guidance
  • if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to stay away from other people

For further information, please see the gov.uk website.

We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be more hesitant in taking the vaccine than others. The NHS is working collaboratively with partners to ensure vaccine messages reaches as diverse an audience as possible and are tailored to meet their needs.

This includes engagement with community and faith-led groups, charities and other voluntary organisations.

You may be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine if any of the following apply:

  • you are a main carer for someone at high risk from COVID-19
  • your GP record shows you are a carer
  • you get a Carer’s Allowance or other support following an assessment by your local authority

You may be able to book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy. If you think you should be eligible as a carer but you cannot book an appointment online, speak to your GP surgery. Your GP may be able to update your GP record and book an appointment for you at a local NHS service.

Anyone who lives or works in a care home can get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Contact your care home manager about getting vaccinated.

Yes, all vaccines that are approved for use in the UK have been trialled on people from a variety of different ethnic groups.

Out of the participants in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial, 82.1% were White, 9.6% were Black or African American, 26.1% were Hispanic/Latino, 4.3% were Asian and 0.7% were Native American/Alaskan native.

Out of the participants in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial, the 75.5% of recipients were White,10.1% were Black and 3.5% were Asian.

Out of the participants in the Moderna vaccine trial, 19.7% were Hispanic or Latino, and 9.7% were African American.

There is no evidence either of the vaccines will work differently in different ethnic groups. 

Further information on the vaccine trial can be found here:

Vaccines only contain ingredients that are essential to make them safe and effective. Any ingredients with potential to cause harm, for example, an allergic reaction, are listed even if present in such small amounts.

The vaccine ingredients for both vaccines approved in the UK can be found here:

Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction. You should not have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to:

  • a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine

Serious allergic reactions are rare. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

No. There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

Vaccination rollout in your area

Find out more about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in your borough: