Help – I’ve had COVID! When can I get my vaccination?

The best way to start 2022 is to make sure you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccine – including your first, second and booster dose. If you haven’t done so already, please come forward now. The vaccine provides the best protection from COVID-19.

But with the spread of Omicron bringing record case numbers, many people are asking when they can get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster after contracting the virus.

If you or your family members have had the virus, and you’re wondering what it means for your vaccine dose, read on, as Wandsworth GP Dr Caroline Scott answers our most frequently asked questions on this issue.

How long do I have to wait after having COVID to get my vaccination?

Adults can have the vaccine 28 days after a positive test for COVID-19 or 28 days after symptoms started, whichever is earlier. This is in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance.

Is this the same for 12 to 15s?

No, the JCVI recommends a gap of 12 weeks between a positive test and a first or second dose vaccine for children of this age group, who are not at high risk from the virus. This is because evidence suggests that a 12-week gap may reduce the already extremely low risk of heart inflammation after a vaccine. The 12-week gap does not apply to children at higher risk from the virus, including those with health conditions and those who live with vulnerable adults, who should wait for 28 days.

Could the COVID-19 vaccination, trigger a false positive lateral flow or PCR test?

No, the vaccine will not affect the result of a test for COVID-19.

What if I have COVID-19 but don’t know it? Can I still get the vaccine?

Having the vaccine, if you don’t know you have COVID because you don’t have symptoms, is very unlikely to be an issue and shouldn’t cause any problems, apart from the usual mild side effects of flu-like symptoms and an achy arm.

Should I take a lateral flow test before getting my vaccine, just in case?

You aren’t required to do this. However, you shouldn’t come to a vaccine centre if you have COVID symptoms, are self-isolating or have been in contact with someone who has the virus. If you have symptoms, you should get a PCR test to confirm whether you have the virus. If you have had a negative PCR test result, but feel unwell, you can still have the vaccine, but may wish to postpone your appointment until you feel better.

If I’ve tested positive, but have no symptoms, is it safe to get the vaccine before the recommended 28 days or 12 weeks?

The advice is that if you know you have had COVID-19 you should still wait the recommended time.

If I’ve had COVID, do I need the vaccine – or is my natural immunity enough?

You still need the vaccine. While having had the virus may give you some immunity, only being fully vaccinated with your first, second and booster dose, if eligible, can offer you the best protection from the virus. Even if you’ve already had coronavirus, you could still get it again. The vaccine will reduce your risk of another infection and the seriousness of your symptoms.

I’ve just had my flu jab, can I still get the COVID vaccine?

Yes, it’s safe to have both vaccines at the same time. If you are eligible for a free flu vaccine, and haven’t had your jab yet, you should do so now as research shows you’re more likely to be seriously ill if you contract COVID-19 and flu at the same time.

I’m confused about the different gaps between doses, in general. What are the rules for people who don’t have COVID?

Over 18s

People aged 18 or over should have their second dose at least eight weeks after their first dose and a booster dose at least three months after the second. You can book a vaccination online via the national booking system or go to a walk-in site without needing an appointment.

16 to 17-year-olds

Young people aged 16 & 17 or should have their second dose twelve weeks after their first dose. Book a vaccination online via the national booking system or go to a walk-in site without needing an appointment.

12 to 15-year-olds

Children can get a first dose of the vaccine from the day they turn 12. Most children can get a second dose 12 weeks after they had their first dose. Children are being offered both doses at their school or by booking through the national booking system or attending a walk-in site accompanied by their parents.

Find more information in this diagram.

What if I have more questions?

Whatever your questions, our NHS healthcare professionals are here to help. Call in at any vaccination centre and our nurses, pharmacists and GPs will talk to you about any concerns or queries with no pressure to have the jab.

If you haven’t had all your vaccine doses, book your appointment today or call in at one of our walk-in centres. If you’ve recently had COVID, and need to wait, you can still book for a future date, choosing a suitable appointment for you.