Your questions

Here we answer your questions about COVID-19 vaccination. If you would like to print this content, please download the pdf.

About COVID-19

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.

Some people will experience Long Covid or post covid syndrome, this affects the body after infection.

If you have had COVID-19 then your body may have built up some natural immunity to the virus, however we don’t know how long this immunity lasts or if it fully protects you from catching COVID-19 again. It is likely that natural immunity won’t last as long as the immunity given to you by a vaccine. So, it is still very important to take up the offer of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine, but it is possible to have caught COVID-19 and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment.

Research has shown the vaccines help reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19, reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 to other people and protects you against COVID-19 variants.

The booster dose increases protection from the virus with waning levels of immunity in the months following the previous doses. In a real world UK study, the UK Health Security Agency found that “boosters give over 90% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 in adults over 50”, reinforcing how vital the boosters are in keeping people safe.

Additionally, booster vaccine tops-up protection against symptomatic infection from the Omicron variant to around 70%. All adulta over 18 are now eligible to book their booster. We are encouraging all eligible people to book an appointment to avoid queuing for longer.

Fast paced research is ongoing into the Omicron Variant, which is classed as a variant of concern. The UK Health Security Agency reported that there is a significant drop in effectiveness against the Omicron variant after two vaccines.

Scientists are concerned by the speed at which Omicron spreads.  If we do nothing, 1,000 cases in a day will soon become 8,000 in a week, and 64,000 in two weeks.

However, analysis shows a third booster prevents around 75% of people getting Covid symptoms.  While symptoms of Omicron appear to be milder than other variants, it is likely there are many more cases of Omicron in the community than those confirmed by testing.

If you’ve had a positive COVID-19 test, you need to wait before getting any dose of the vaccine. You need to:

  • wait 4 weeks (28 days) if you’re aged 18 years old or over
  • wait 12 weeks (84 days) if you’re aged 12 to 17 years old
  • wait 4 weeks (28 days) if you’re aged 12 to 17 years old and at high-risk from COVID-19

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please do not attend your appointment. You should get yourself tested and self-isolate.

If you test positive, you need to wait at least 28 days to have your booster. This will vary depending on your age group.

If you test negative, you will be able to attend your appointment. For more information, please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/

COVID-19 vaccination is a preventative measure to reduce the risk of severe illness or death from a coronavirus infection. Data shows that vaccinations are working to prevent death. Between 2nd January 2021 and 24th September 2021, data shows, those who have died 3 weeks after their second dose of vaccination from a COVID-19 infection is 26.2 per 100,000 people and those who have been unvaccinated who have died from a COVID-19 infection is 849.7 per 100,000 people.

This is a dramatic difference in those who have and those who have not been vaccinated. Mortality rate for deaths involving COVID-19 is 32 times higher for unvaccinated people than those who have been fully vaccinated.

It is important to note that individuals with a diagnosed or undiagnosed health condition may be more vulnerable to the impact of a COVID-19 infection, but it is also affecting previously healthy individuals, depending on how their bodies respond to the infection.

Many people recover from a COVID-19 infection but a growing number of people cannot shake off the effects of the virus months after initially falling ill. Symptoms are wide-ranging and can change day to day, they can include breathlessness, chronic fatigue, “brain fog”, anxiety and stress.

Post-COVID syndrome are signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with COVID-19, which continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative illness or health condition.

The condition usually starts with clusters of symptoms, often at the same time, which may change and can affect any part of the body. Many people with post-COVID syndrome can also experience generalised pain, tiredness, persisting high temperature and psychiatric illness.

While we have learned lots about COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and new treatments are available, the long term effects of the illness can be debilitating, even for young, fit people, or those who did not go to hospital when they had COVID-19 symptoms initially.

Ongoing symptomatic covid is when symptoms last for more than 4 weeks following a COVID infection.

To reduce the chances of becoming severely ill or experiencing a long term impact on health from a COVID-19 infection, the best protection available is to take all doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine in the recommended time frames that individuals are eligible for.

There are lots of symptoms you can have after a COVID-19 infection.

Common symptoms include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

The vaccination provides protection from getting COVID-19, and supports with fighting off an infection more quickly when contracted. If an individual is infected, they may still succumb to the effects of long covid, depending on their individual reaction. Covid-19 vaccination significantly reduces the risk of severe illness and hospitalisation from a covid-19 infection. When a vaccinated person does become infected, the illness is much more likely to be mild. Older people (aged over 60) and individuals with a previous or underlying health condition are more vulnerable to the effects of an infection These factors have an impact on the long-term outcome as they are at higher risk of adverse effects from an infection.

Each time a virus replicates there is a chance for mutation. It important to know, that many of these mutations are minor and don’t have an overall impact on how severe future infection could be, or how fast the virus spreads.

SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) is still a relatively newly discovered virus so there are still many unknowns, but we continue to learn more all the time.

At present it appears that mutations are occurring in COVID-19 4x slower than with the influenza (flu) virus.

About the 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 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.

Vaccination is offer to most:

  • children aged 5-11
  • children and young people aged 12-17
  • 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.

The vaccine is now offered to all age cohorts over the age of 5 in the UK. If you are a carer and would like to get the COVID-19 vaccine you can attend a walk in clinic close to you. You can find your nearest walk in here.

You may also be able to book an appointment 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.

The most common vaccines in use in the UK include AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech.

Currently, those aged over 18 will be offered Moderna. Those aged 12-17 will be offered Pfizer. The Moderna vaccine was approved for use in the UK on 8 January 2021 and is an mRNA vaccine, like the Pfizer vaccine. It is recommended for adults 18 and over and for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.  It does not include egg or animal products. It does not contain the virus, so it cannot give you Covid-19. It is suitable for people of all faiths and for those who do not consume animal products.

No, COVID-19 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.

Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines are both mRNA vaccines. This means that they both work by stimulating the body’s natural defences (immune system). The vaccines works by causing the body to produce protection (antibodies) against the virus that causes COVID-19.

The vaccine uses a substance called messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) to carry instructions that cells in the body can use to make the spike protein that is also on the virus. The cells then make antibodies against the spike protein to help fight off the virus. This will help to protect you against COVID-19. Both these vaccine have similar side effects following the vaccination.

The AZ vaccine works by delivering the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the body’s cells, similarly to the mRNA vaccines. Once inside the body, the spike protein is produced, causing the immune system to recognise it and initiate an immune response. This means that if the body later encounters the spike protein of the coronavirus, the immune system will recognise it and destroy it before causing infection.

The vaccine roll out is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), working with NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England and local integrated care systems, to co-ordinate vaccinations across a large network of sites including in hospitals, GPs vaccination hubs, pop up clinics, pharmacies and roving clinicans.

No. When you book, you’ll only be offered appointments for vaccines that are suitable for you. 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.

The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few weeks from the first dose for your body to build up protection.

There is a chance you might still get or spread COVID-19 even if you have a vaccine, so it’s important to follow advice about how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19.

Currently it is only available in an injectable form, but work continues on developing the vaccine further.

Different vaccines and doses

  • Children aged 5-11 can get their COVID-19 vaccine. The second dose is offered 12 weeks after the first dose or 8 weeks after, for those at high risk.
  • Children aged 12-15 can get their COVID-19 vaccine. The second dose is offered 12 weeks after the first dose or 8 weeks after, for those at high risk.
  • Young people aged 16-17 can get their COVID-19 vaccine. The second dose is offered 12 weeks after the first dose or 8 weeks after, for those at high risk.
  • Adults 18 and over are offered 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and a booster.
  • A second booster is available to people aged 75 years and older, residents in care homes for older people, and those with weakened immune systems. Eligible people will be offered an appointment around 6 months (and not before 3 months) since their last dose of vaccine.

The JCVI is also advising that a third primary dose (previous to offers of boosters) to be offered to individuals aged 12 years and over with severe immunosuppression. A third primary dose is an extra ‘top-up’ dose for those who may not have generated a full immune response to the first 2 doses. The JCVI advises that for adults aged 18 and older, either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines be administered for the third dose. For those aged 12 to 17, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is preferred.

The COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK are:

  • Moderna vaccine
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • Janssen vaccine (not currently available)

Most people can have any of the COVID-19 vaccines, but some people are only offered certain vaccines.

For example:

  • if you’re pregnant or under 40 you’ll usually be offered appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines
  • if you’re under 18, you’ll only be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

You should have the same vaccine for both your 1st and 2nd doses, unless you had serious side effects (such as a serious allergic reaction) after your 1st dose.

Most people will be offered a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine.

This means your booster dose may be different from the vaccine you had for your first 2 doses.

Some people may be offered a booster dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they cannot have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

Booster vaccine doses will be available on the NHS for people most at risk from COVID-19 who have already had 2 doses of a vaccine.

      This includes:

  • people aged 18 and over
  • people who live and work in care homes
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • people aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • carers aged 16 and over
  • people aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • People who are pregnant and in 1 of the eligible groups can also get a booster dose

If you are eligible, you’ll be offered a booster dose at least 3 months (91 days) after you had your 2nd dose.

Most people will be invited to book an appointment at a larger vaccination centre, pharmacy, or local NHS service such as a GP surgery. You can book in for your vaccine with the National Booking Service.

Frontline health and social care workers will be invited to book an appointment through their employer.

Most people who can get a COVID-19 vaccine are also eligible for the annual flu vaccine.

If you are offered both vaccines, it’s safe to have them at the same time.

The third dose of the Covid vaccination is a part of the primary course of vaccinations, which means it’s in the same group as your first and second dose. The third primary vaccination is only being offered to people who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second vaccination. Those who receive third dose may also be offered a booster dose when eligible. The Covid-19 booster vaccination is being offered to a larger group of patients. All adults aged 30 and over are offered the booster dose 3 months (91 days) following their 2nd dose and from the 15th December all adults over 18 are also able to book in for a booster dose.

If you are eligible for your booster vaccine, you can book to receive your booster vaccine via the national booking system: Book or manage a 1st, 2nd or booster dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination – NHS (www.nhs.uk).  

As well as booking online, you can now walk in for your booster at various sites across London: Walk-in and pop up vaccination clinics – South West London CCG (swlondonccg.nhs.uk)  

The booster dose increases protection from the virus with waning levels of immunity in the months following the second dose. In a real world UK study, The UK Health Security Agency published “boosters give over 90% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 in adults over 50”, reinforcing how vital the boosters are in keeping people safe.

All those over 18 who had their second dose 3 months ago or more are now eligible to book their booster .To book an appointment go to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/

We know protection from booster doses increases waning levels of immunity in the months following the second dose. We continue to learn from emerging evidence on the best timeline for the highest level of protection from the vaccines.

The recommendation for an earlier booster takes into account the balance between timing of a booster to give the greatest effectiveness and the risk of catching the infection. To give yourself and others around you the highest level of protection from coronavirus, the offer to receive your COVID-19 vaccination is always open.

If you have a weakened immune system and have had a 3rd dose of the vaccine, you can get a booster dose from 3 months after your 3rd dose. Your GP or hospital specialist will invite you for your booster dose when it’s due.

If you have a letter / text message from your GP or hospital specialist inviting you for your 3rd dose, you can get your booster at a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site. You’ll need to bring your letter / text message for your third dose with you. Alternatively, please try booking online.

It’s never too late to come forward for your first, second or (if you were immunosuppressed at the time of one of these) a third dose of the vaccine. You do not need to be registered with a GP and can find a walk-in option, book an appointment or more information at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccine or by calling 119 (translators are available into different languages on request).

The NHS will be delivering a Spring Booster in England to those who are most vulnerable from COVID-19, including people aged 75 and over. The NHS is also preparing to deliver an autumn dose of the vaccine, but whether this happens will depend on future recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Ingredients

There are no artificial colours in any of the covid vaccines.

No. There is no fetal or animal material, in any of the COVID-19 vaccines approved in the UK. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

Safety

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 COVID-19 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.

Research and data shows that the most common adverse effects following vaccination in children aged 12 to 17 years are injection site pain, fever and headache. These reactions are generally mild, self-limiting and short-lived, typically lasting 1 to 2 days.

Real-world data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in children is currently limited, but there have been extremely rare reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) following the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in millions of younger adults.

The COVID-19 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 COVID-19 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.

They can cause some side effects, but not everyone gets them. Side effects are usually mild and should not last longer than a week.

There have been reports of an extremely rare but serious condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccination.

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.

Similar conditions can also occur naturally, and clotting problems are a common complication of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. The clotting risk from the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine is much less than with many other things including contraceptive pills and significantly less than the risk of serious blood clots after a COVID-19 infection, where the virus raises the risk much more and for longer.

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

COVID-19 vaccine technologies have been studied for years and used in other treatments without issue. Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. We know from experience that any adverse effects from vaccines are seen within days to months of using the vaccine and so we have no reason to believe any different. Beyond vaccines, cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells.

Instead of clinical trials happening sequentially, there was worldwide collaboration. This led to a faster process than normal. There was also collaboration around funding. Governments around the world supported the development of the vaccine and this led to a lot of rigorous development. On the back of that we now have a malaria vaccine.

Yellow cards can be completed by anyone and do not necessarily mean the adverse reaction was serious, severe or concerning. It is mandatory for all new medicines. In over 10 million under 18s vaccinated worldwide, there have been no vaccine-related deaths recorded and no serious adverse events observed.

Locations available for vaccination

The vaccine is being offered at larger vaccination centres, pharmacies and some local NHS services such as hospitals or GP surgeries, pop up clinics and via roving clinicians.

Healthy school-aged children aged 12 to 15 will primarily receive their COVID-19 vaccination in their school. If they have missed this appointment, They can also get their vaccination at community vaccination centres across South West London. Appointments can be booked using the National Booking System and walk in times are available across South West London. Alternative provisions are being made for those who are home schooled, in secure services or specialist mental health settings.  

You can book your appointment at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now, or you can wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service. You can also walk into some of the vaccination sites in South West London.

The offer won’t go away, we will endeavour to help everyone get their vaccination once they have made the decision that they would like to have it.      

Children aged 12-15 can now get their vaccination at community vaccination centres across South West London. Appointments can be booked using the National Booking System. Those aged 12-15 cannot walk in to community pharmacies but walk in times are available in community vaccination sites and hospital hubs.

Side effects

Most side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week, 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.

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.

As with your previous dose the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, and include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection – this tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
    • feeling tired
    • headache
    • general aches, or mild flu like symptoms

You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better. Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.

Although a fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test. Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111.

A link between the vaccine and changes in the menstrual cycle is being researched. Most people who report a change to their period after vaccination find that it returns to normal the following cycle and, importantly, there is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccination adversely affects fertility.  

Myocarditis is a very rare side effect of vaccination and would usually be very mild. Common symptoms of myocarditis include:

– Shortness of breath when lightly exercising or walking

– A stabbing pain and/or tightness in the chest which may spread across the body

– Difficulty breathing when resting

– Flu-like symptoms such as a high temperature, tiredness and fatigue

– Palpitations or an abnormal heart rhythm

The evidence to date has shown in young people who have had the vaccine, very small number develop a mild transient form of myocarditis and it resolves. There is no evidence showing which young people are more likely to have it following the vaccine.

Millions of people have had a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine and the safety of the vaccines continues to be monitored, there is no evidence any particular people have a higher risk of side effects. Mild transient side effects such as sore arm or tiredness , are common after  all vaccines and these last for 24-48 hours. Taking paracetamol helps ease symptoms and you must seek medical advice if symptoms last longer than 4 days especially headaches. Reports of serious side effects are very rare.

Effectiveness

It is not yet known how long protection will last, the JCVI continue to review emerging scientific data, including data relating to the duration of immunity from the current vaccines. Final advice on the booster vaccination may change as a result of this and information will be updated.

Approved COVID-19 Vaccines in the UK will provide some protection against new strains of coronavirus. The vaccine provides a broad antibody immune response, therefore changes and mutations in coronavirus would be unlikely to make the COVID-19 vaccine ineffective.

Scientists and researchers continuously collect data on new variants to understand effectiveness of vaccines. They can detect when changes need to be made to vaccinations, similar to the process with flu vaccinations. Variants can be tracked, and changes can be made if required, to make a vaccine more effective. If there are major changes in the virus through mutation, vaccinations can be developed to accommodate these and information to the public if or when this does happen will continuously be shared as we learn more.

The Coronavirus variant that is spreading most quickly at present is named Omicron. UK data is showing, after receiving the booster dose, there is up to 75% effectiveness against preventing symptomatic infection and up to 88% effectiveness against hospitalisation.

It is important to keep up to date with vaccinations, so they can provide the best protection against an infection, especially when COVID-19 cases are high and spreading in the community.

The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from COVID-19 from 3 to 4 weeks after you’ve had it. But you need to have the 2 dose of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection.

The COVID-19 booster vaccine dose helps improve the protection you have from your first 2 doses of the vaccine. It helps give you longer-term protection against getting seriously ill from COVID-19

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

This means it is important to:

  • if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to keep your distance from those not living in your household.

There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of COVID-19 infection, or with detectable COVID-19 antibody so people who have had COVID-19 disease (whether confirmed or suspected) can still receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

For individuals aged 18 and over, we advise you to wait a short while after having had Covid. You can have the vaccine 28 days after you had a positive test for COVID-19 or 28 days after your symptoms started.

When enough people are vaccinated, it’s harder for a disease to spread to those who can’t have vaccines. Getting vaccinated protects not only you but also your family, friends, and community and It’s much safer for you when your immune system to learns to fight illnesses through vaccination than from catching covid-19.  

Religious and cultural implications

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 reach 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.

Allergies, health conditions and phobias

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 including PEG (Polyethyene Glycol)

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.

As previously advised by JCVI, persons aged 12 to 15 years with specific underlying health conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID-19, should be offered 3 doses of Pfizer vaccine with an interval of 8 weeks between doses and a booster 91 days following the third primary dose. This currently includes children with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, underlying conditions resulting in immunosuppression, profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD), severe learning disabilities or who are on the learning disability register. Details regarding additional person-groups with underlying health conditions to be offered vaccination will be provided as updates in the Green Book Chapter 14.

This is a common issue. The teams going into schools and those vaccinating young people at vaccination sites are experienced and will use practiced methods to avoid any anxiety and stress, among young people. We have allowed for enough time to manage needle phobia. As a parent, please do give them reassurance. When attending a vaccination site we would also recommend the child, parent or guardian informs the vaccination team of any phobias.

Fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding

There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant.

There’s no need to avoid getting pregnant after being vaccinated

Although the overall risk from COVID-19 disease in pregnant women and their new babies is low, in later pregnancy some women may become seriously unwell and need hospital treatment.

Pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of intensive care admission than women of the same age who are not pregnant. Women with COVID-19 disease are also 2 to 3 times more likely to have their babies early than women without COVID-19.

Pregnant women with underlying clinical conditions are at even higher risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you will have been offered the COVID-19 vaccine in line with when your cohort was eligible.

It is preferable for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to be offered to pregnant women in the UK, where available. COVID-19 vaccines are recommended in pregnancy and vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies.

COVID-19 vaccines available in the UK, do not contain live coronavirus or any ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to a developing baby.

The vaccine is considered to be safe and effective at any stage of pregnancy and during breastfeeding for both the mother and the child. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

It is recommended that pregnant women receive two doses before giving birth, or before they enter the third trimester, when the risk is greatest.

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended to breastfeeding women. You should not stop breastfeeding in order to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Latest advice, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, is that you cannot pass any vaccine or its ingredients to your baby through breast milk and so it is fine to continue to breastfeed and have your vaccination. You will pass on antibodies against COVID-19 through breastmilk, these antibodies are not harmful to your baby, and may give some protection against the virus.

Mandatory vaccinations

On 31 January 2022, the government announced its intention to revoke the regulations making coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination a condition of deployment in health and social care, subject to the consultation and parliamentary process.  In light of latest scientific evidence and having considered the views received as part of the consultation, as well as an analysis of equalities impacts, the government has brought forward regulations to revoke vaccination as a condition of deployment.

However, the importance of vaccination remains clear and receiving a full course of vaccination, is crucial in ensuring the levels of protection that individuals receive against COVID-19. This is particularly the case for those working in health and social care who have a duty to protect those they care for against COVID-19. Further information can be found at Consultation Outcome

Proof of vaccination

An NHS COVID Pass shows your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination details or test results. You may need to show your pass to gain entry at events and venues in the UK when asked for proof of your COVID-19 status.

You will need to have a specific COVID Pass to travel abroad which is also available on the app or website.

The NHS COVID pass is not available for children under the age of 16.

You can get the NHS Covid Pass either:

  • two weeks after your second vaccine dose
  • if you’ve had a negative PCR or lateral flow test result in the past 48 hours – and have reported the result (this pass lasts for 48 hours after the result)
  • if you have had a positive PCR test result within the past six months, and have finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days after the result)

Digital Version: You can get a pass by downloading the NHS App, accessing on the COVID Pass website or dialing 119.

Paper Version: You can ask for a letter after you have had your 2nd dose of the vaccine. You may need to wait 5 working days before using the service, so that your record will be up to date. You can get a letter by requesting a COVID Pass letter online or calling 119.

For more information on the COVID Pass, visit NHS COVID Pass.

Ages 5-11

Children will be offered the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Each vaccine is a third of the dose of vaccine that is given to older children and adults.

Children at greater risk of serious illness if they catch COVID-19 will need 2 doses of vaccine, 8 weeks apart. All other children will be offered 2 doses of vaccine 12 weeks apart.

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of your child suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few weeks for their body to build up some protection from the vaccine.

Two doses of the vaccine should give your child long lasting protection against serious complications of infection, including any future waves due to new variants.

Your child should also have some protection from the mild symptoms. The protection against mild Omicron infection should last for several weeks.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective. Some children may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.

A clinician will determine whether or not a child within this age group should be offered COVID-19 vaccination. Children considered at higher risk of severe COVID-19 include those who have:   

  • chronic respiratory disease 
  • chronic heart conditions 
  • chronic conditions of the kidney, liver or digestive system 
  • chronic neurological disease 
  • severe, profound or multiple learning disabilities, Down’s syndrome or are on the learning disability register 
  • endocrine disorders 
  • a weakened immune system due to a treatment (such as steroid medicine, biological therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy) 
  • asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen 
  • serious genetic irregularities that affect a number of systems, including mitochondrial disease and chromosomal abnormalities  

Children who are about to receive planned immunosuppressive therapy should be considered for vaccination prior to commencing therapy. 

A full list of the eligibility criteria is available in table 4 of the Green Book, chapter 14a.  

Children aged 5 to 11 years who are expected to share living accommodation on most days (and therefore for whom continuing close contact is unavoidable) with individuals of any age who are immunosuppressed will be entitled to COVID-19 vaccination.  

The preferred option for children in this cohort is the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty®) 10 micrograms dose concentrate, which is a formulation for children aged 5 to 11.

Our standards require sites to allocate more time for vaccinating children. If a child will require any reasonable adjustments at their vaccination appointment to support attendance and delivery of the vaccination, parents should make any requirements needed known when they are booking the appointment on behalf of their child. It is important services are aware of any appropriate arrangements needed in advance. 

Additional safeguarding standards will be in place for staff involved in vaccinating this age group. All the clinical staff working in the centre are required to have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check. In addition, all staff (excluding stewards) must have additional bespoke training.  

A number of additional resources have been prepared to assist providers in preparing the workforce and the environment for young children. All staff involved in vaccinating 5 to 11-year-olds will have appropriate training specific to communicating with and vaccinating this age group. For staff vaccinating children with special educational needs and disabilities, all clinical staff are required to have the skill and competences to care for this group of patients.  

Vaccination sites should ensure a range of times are available which are convenient to parents and children.  

GPs who aren’t providing vaccinations to this age group have been asked to identify all eligible patients on their lists and ensure they receive an invitation for vaccination at another local site. 

Ages 12-17

The Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine is the only vaccine authorised for children aged 12 to 17 years in the UK.

No, there is no reason to delay. You can have Covid-19 vaccine and the HPV vaccine. It’s is very important to have the HPV vaccine.

When enough people get vaccinated, it’s harder for a disease to spread to those who can’t have vaccines. Getting vaccinated protects not only protect you but also your family, friends, and community and It’s much safer for your immune system to learn to fight illnesses through vaccination than by catching and treating them. 

The Chief Medical Officers have recommended that the offer of covid-19 vaccination be extended to all young people aged 12 to 15.

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that for children and young people aged 12-15 who do not have underlying health conditions, the individual health benefits from vaccination are slightly greater than the potential known harms, but that the margin of benefit, is considered too small for them to recommend a universal programme of vaccination. 

Accepting this advice, UK Chief Medical Officers looked at wider public health benefits and risks of universal vaccination in this age group to determine if this shifts the risk-benefit either way. Of these, the most important in this age group was impact on education

The guidance at present is for healthy 12-15 year olds (as well as healthy 16 & 17 year olds) to have one dose of the Covid vaccine. This is because the greatest benefit is seen after the first dose. As ever, this will be kept under review as the vaccination programme continues.

Research has shown the vaccines help reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19, reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 and protect you against COVID-19 variants. Young people are also at risk of developing Long Covid, so it is just as important for them to have the protection of a vaccine. We continue to work with those hesitant in our borough to increase uptake.

If a child is eligible, their parent or carer would have been contacted before 23rd August by a local NHS service such as a GP or hospital and offered the opportunity to book an appointment. Bookings started from 23rd August. You can also walk in to a local vaccination site that is offering vaccines for children aged 12-15.

If a parent or guardian thinks that their child is eligible but has not been contacted, they should contact their GP.

School based immunisation teams will only vaccinate children aged 12 and above in line with government guidance. We are putting in place a process for other settings including GPs and mass vaccination sites to provide vaccinations to healthy 12-15 year olds. There will continue to be provision for those aged 12 and over in the coming months.

Like any other vaccination programme, nurses are very experienced and will take care of the children. Children would be required to wait for 15 minutes in a designated waiting area, following the vaccination. Following this period, we would expect children to return to lessons. They will not be returned to class until the team are certain they have recovered.

We aren’t encouraging parents to attend with their children, but if there were exceptional circumstances, then it could be considered. The team are flexible, and we want to do our best. Please let the headteacher know if this is something that needs to be considered. 12-15 year olds can walk in to community vaccination centres across South West London with their parents.

We have well established protocols in place to support the vaccination of young people who attend with or without a guardian. Our vaccinators will discuss this with you when you visit one of our vaccination sites.

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 older children may be sufficiently mature 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 is used in other school-based vaccination programmes.

Healthy 16-17 year olds are eligible to receive 1st, 2nd and booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

16 and 17-year-olds who are considering taking the COVID -19 vaccine will not need a parent or carers consent to do so. Current UK guidance states that at 16 years of age a young person is presumed in law to have the capacity to consent.

Decisions on number of vaccinations for the best form of protection for a population group are based on latest evidence of the benefits of the vaccine programme. A second vaccine dose increases the level of protection and is important for extending the duration of protection. Protection from the first dose will eventually start to decline, the benefits from the second vaccine dose will become more important over time. For most children and young people COVID-19 is usually a milder illness that rarely leads to complications. For a very few the symptoms may last for longer with more severity. A second dose may also offer a reduction in the risk of hospitalisation and onward transmission to vulnerable close contacts.

Ages 18 and over

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.

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

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).

Spring Booster

COVID-19 is more serious in older people and those with a weakened immune system. Protection from the vaccine may be lower and may decline more quickly in these people. For this reason, people aged 75 years and over, those in care homes and those aged 12 years and over with a weakened immune system are being offered the spring booster.

JCVI’s advice is that people should wait until around six months since their last dose for maximum effectiveness, and people are asked to wait until they are invited by the NHS to book. People should wait to be contacted by the NHS. The NHS will begin inviting people from the week beginning 21st March and will offer a top-up dose to all who are eligible during Spring and early Summer.

For spring boosters, you should wait until the NHS contacts you. For an initial booster dose (the first dose following your primary course), you can visit www.nhs.uk/covid-booster to find your nearest walk in option or book an appointment. You can also call 119 free of charge which also offers translators on request.

The JCVI advice is that people should wait until around six months since their last dose for maximum effectiveness, and people are asked to wait until they are invited by the NHS to book. However, provided they are in one of the eligible groups and they attend a site that accepts walk-ins for booster doses, they will not be turned away if it has been more than three months since their previous dose and they have not had COVID recently (see next answer).

You may experience some mild side effects from the booster dose, regardless of how you reacted to previous COVID-19 vaccines. Side effects are very mild, do not last for very long and not everybody will get them. Side effects can include a sore arm, feeling tired, a headache, feeling achy, and feeling or being sick. If you do get these, a pain killer such as paracetamol is recommended.

The NHS vaccinates people in line with recommendations on who is eligible from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), as accepted by government.