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 45 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.

When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most people this will be a letter, either from their GP or the national NHS.

The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. It’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.

Letters are being sent out every week – you might not get your letter straight away.

The COVID-19 vaccines will become available as they are approved for use and as each batch is manufactured. So every dose is needed to protect those at highest risk. The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have the vaccine.

Some people who are housebound or live in a care home and who can’t get to a local vaccination centre may have to wait for supply of the right type of vaccine. This is because only some vaccines can be transported to people’s homes.

The vaccine is being offered at larger vaccination centres, pharmacies and some local NHS services, such as hospitals or GP surgeries.

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.

Vaccines teach your immune system how to create antibodies that protect you from diseases.

It’s much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and treating them.

Once your immune system knows how to fight a disease, it can often protect you for many years. More information on how vaccines work and why they are important is available on the NHS website.

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:

Recently 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.

Although this condition remains extremely rare there appears to be a higher risk in people who have had the first dose of the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine. Around four people develop this condition for every million doses of AZ vaccine doses given.

This is seen slightly more often in younger people and tends to occur between four days and two weeks following vaccination.

This condition can also occur naturally, and clotting problems are a common complication of COVID-19 infection.

An increased risk has not yet been seen after other COVID-19 vaccines but is being carefully monitored.

The MHRA and the JCVI advises that all adults in this age group (including health and social care workers) should still receive any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

The benefits of vaccination in protecting you against the serious consequences of COVID-19 outweigh any risk of this rare condition.

You should also complete your course with the same vaccine you had for the first dose.

Currently the JCVI has advised that it is preferable for people under 30 to have a vaccine other than AZ.

If you choose to have another COVID-19 vaccine you may have to wait to be protected. You may wish to go ahead with the AZ vaccination after you have considered all the risks and benefits for you.

If you have already had a first dose of AZ vaccine without suffering any serious side effects you should complete the course.

This includes people aged 18 to 29 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.

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 MHRA have said these vaccines are highly effective even with just the first dose, but to get full protection people need to come back for the second dose – this is really important.  

Full protection kicks in around a week or two after that second dose. There is a small chance you might still get coronavirus or pass it on even if you have the vaccine.

So even if you have received a vaccine you still need to follow social distancing and other guidance.

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.

It is expected that the vaccine will be effective for at least a year. This will continually be monitored.

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.

Both vaccines have been authorised on the basis of two doses because the evidence from the clinical trials shows that this gives the maximum level of protection.

To ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Department for Health and Social Care now advise that the second dose of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12 weeks apart.

The evidence doesn’t show any risk to not having the second dose other than not being as protected as you otherwise would be. We would urge everyone to show up for both of their appointments for their own protection as well as to ensure we don’t waste vaccines or the time of NHS staff.

Both vaccines have been authorised on the basis of two doses because the evidence from the clinical trials shows that this gives the maximum level of protection.

This decision will help us save lives by getting the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time.

Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.

The evidence doesn’t show any risk to not having the second dose other than not being as protected as you otherwise would be. We would urge everyone to show up for both of their appointments for their own protection as well as to ensure we don’t waste vaccines or the time of NHS staff. For further information, please see the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s statement on prioritising the first does.

The Moderna vaccine has been approved for use in the UK by the Medicines Healthcare and products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The Government has ordered several million doses of the vaccine, but we do not expect Moderna to be able to make these available until spring 2021.

Further information on the Moderna vaccine can be found on the gov.uk website.

The vaccines that have been approved for use are classed as highly effective, even from just the first dose.

After one dose, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been estimated to offer 89% effectiveness from two weeks after it is given. The Oxford/AstraZeneca has been estimated to offer 74% effectiveness from two weeks after it is given.

Clinical trials showed the Moderna vaccine was 94% effective after two doses. It is important to note that all vaccines approved for use in the UK are highly effective and offer the best protection against coronavirus.

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.

The vaccines that the NHS uses and in what circumstances will be decided by the MHRA. Both vaccines are classed as being very effective. The Oxford/AstraZeneca is easier to store and transport, meaning we can deliver them in more places, and we expect to have more doses available as they are manufactured in the UK, so we would expect that most people are likely to receive this vaccine over the coming weeks and months.

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.

Although a mild fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID symptoms (new continuous cough or loss of/change in your normal sense of taste or smell) or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test.

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

Further information on side-effects for the vaccines approved for us in the UK can be found on the gov.uk website:

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

Even if you are healthy you should get vaccinated. Although the COVID-19 vaccine is not compulsory, it gives you the best protection against coronavirus.

All people who are in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable group and all those who have underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease or mortality are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Whether you are offered the vaccine as part of these groups may depend on the severity of your condition. Your GP can advise on this.  A full list can be found on the gov.uk website.

If you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction, you should tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated.

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.

There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant. But more evidence is needed before you can be routinely offered the vaccine.

The JCVI has updated its advice to recommend you may be able to have the vaccine if you’re pregnant and:

  • at high risk of getting coronavirus because of where you work.
  • have a health condition that means you’re at high risk of serious complications of coronavirus.

You can 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 of the COVID-19 vaccine with you.

You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

Read the latest COVID-19 vaccine advice if you’re pregnant, may get pregnant or are breastfeeding at gov.uk.

There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility and you do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College Midwives (RCM) issued a joint statement to provide reassurance around the misinformation that has been shared about the impact of COVID-19 vaccines on fertility. You can read the full statement here.

Yes, you should still get vaccinated when you are eligible even if you have had COVID.

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.

Standard opening times for vaccination centres will be 8am – 8pm, seven days a week. To test the system and make sure the space is safe for visitors and staff, most vaccination centres in the first day or days may open slightly later.

People will start to receive booking letters from the NHS from Saturday 9 January, which will contain the details of how they can book online or by phone. Initially letters will be sent to people over the age of 80 that haven’t already been vaccinated and live within a reasonable travel distance of a Vaccination Centre. This will expand to other priority groups as more Vaccination Centres go live across the country

If you are caring for someone with underlying health conditions who would struggle to cope if you became unwell, you can help the vaccination effort by emailing your GP practice or using its website to make sure your local surgery knows you are an unpaid carer.

Both vaccines approved for use in the UK have been trialled on a variety of people from different backgrounds. This includes men and women of various ages and ethnicities, and those with underlying health conditions.

Further information on the vaccine trials can be found here:

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:

Although there is clear evidence that some BAME groups have higher rates of COVID-19 infection and are at greater risk of serious illness and death, there is no strong evidence to suggest that this is due to ethnicity (by itself) or genetics.

Certain health conditions mean that some people are at higher risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19, and some of these health conditions are more common in certain BAME groups.

By prioritising the vaccination of those most at risk, people from BAME communities with certain underlying health conditions will be invited to receive their vaccine.

For further information on priority groups, please see the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) statement on the gov.uk website.

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:

The approved Covid-19 vaccines do not contain any animal, meat or egg products.

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

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

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine does not contain any alcohol. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine contains a very small amount of alcohol (ethanol), which is less than what is found in natural foods or bread. This is not enough to cause any noticeable effects.

The vaccine ingredients for both vaccines approved in the UK can be found 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 vaccination centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres. More centres are opening all the time.

The NHS will contact you and invite you to book an appointment when it is your turn. You may receive a phone call, text message or letter from your GP practice or local NHS service. You may receive a letter from the NHS to book online or over the phone at a vaccination centre.

If you are vulnerable, the NHS is putting plans in place to ensure people who are eligible get the vaccine safely. If you are a care home resident or you cannot leave home, this will involve someone from your local vaccination service coming to you. The latest Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccine can be found on the gov.uk website.

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

The most important symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of any of the following:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell.

If you have the symptoms above, stay at home and arrange to have a test. If you need more information on symptoms visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-COVID-19/symptoms

So far, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is continuing to monitor reports of adverse reactions. So far, the MHRA have received a small number of reports of suspected adverse reactions in which a patient has died shortly after vaccination. The majority of these reports were in elderly people or people with underlying illness.

A review of these individual reports does not suggest that the vaccine played a role in the death. Further information on adverse reactions can be found on the gov.uk website

There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines alter your genetic material.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine uses mRNA technology. This teaches our cells to make protein that triggers a protective immune response. The mRNA is broken down soon after it enters the body. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is kept.

Further information about the vaccines approved for use in the UK can be found here:

The COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK have been endorsed by numerous faith leaders.

Some examples of support include the British Islamic Medical Association, which has consulted various experts about both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and has advised that eligible, at-risk individuals in the Muslim community should receive the vaccine.

The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has also issued a video explaining that is important to have the COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself and others around you.

The Sikh Council have urged Sikhs to safeguard themselves against rumours and misinformation and encouraged them to follow government guidelines and advice.

Faith leaders from the Church of England, Anglican, Methodist, Salvation Army, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical and black majority churches have pledged their support to the ‘Give Hope’ campaign which aims to share information about the COVID-19 vaccine and dispel any misinformation.

Further information:

  • The position statements from the British Islamic Medical Council on vaccines approved for use in the UK can be found here: Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • A video of the Chief Rabbi can be viewed here.
  • Information on the Give Hope campaign can be found here.

People are advised to make their own choice based on the information and facts from NHS and government organisations.

Certain health conditions mean that some people are at higher risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19, and some of these health conditions are more common in certain BAME groups.

There is more of a risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 than suffering an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. Although not compulsory, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and it gives you the best protection against coronavirus.

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).

So far, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported. For more information on the COVID-19 safety and effectiveness, see the NHS.uk website.

Vaccination rollout in your area

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