Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccine

Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine FAQs

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines

  • The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. They will give you the  best protection against coronavirus 
  • The vaccines are part of our defence – we need to continue with hands, face,  space 
  • If you are over the age of 45 or you are clinically extremely vulnerable you can now book by visiting www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or ringing 119 free. Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the vaccine.
  • If you are eligible for the Carer's Allowance, you will receive a letter inviting you to have your vaccination.
  • For all other groups, 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. 

AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots - benefits outweigh risks

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization have all reiterated that the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the prevention of COVID-19 far outweigh any possible risk of blood clots amongst those groups currently eligible to receive their first vaccination, as well as all of those due their 2nd dose.

Offering further reassurance, this afternoon the EMA said that these extremely isolated cases “should be listed as very rare side effects”. 

In those aged 18-29, an alternative vaccine will be offered when the time is right for vaccinating this group, and GPs will ensure the appropriate vaccine is offered, and any questions are answered.  The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has stated that this change in course has been made - not because there is a high risk to the under 30s from this vaccine, but due to them having taken an approach of the utmost caution - which should provide great reassurance, and is quite normal in the rollout of a global vaccination program. Read the full announcement from NHS England.

Who will get it when? 

  • 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
    hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres.
    More centres are opening all the time.
  • It's being given to:
    • people aged 45 and over
    • some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
    • people who live or work in care homes
    • health and social care workers
    • If you are eligible for the Carer's Allowance, you will receive a letter inviting you to have your vaccination.
  • The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) defines clinically vulnerable people as those with:
    • chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic
      fibrosis and severe asthma
    • chronic heart disease (and vascular disease)
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease
    • chronic neurological disease including epilepsy
    • Down’s syndrome
    • severe and profound learning disability
    • diabetes
  • You also need to be registered with a GP surgery in England. You can register with a
    GP if you do not have one.
  • The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its detailed advice here. 

How will I know when I can get a vaccine? 

  • If you are over the age of 45, or you are clinically extremely vulnerable you can now book by visiting www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or ringing 119 free. Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the vaccine. If you are eligible for the Carer's Allowance, you will receive a letter inviting you to have your vaccination.
  • For all other groups, 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.
  • For other groups, 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. 
  • This letter will include all the information you will need to book appointments,  including your NHS number. Please do not contact the NHS to get an appointment  until you get this letter. 
  • Information on the vaccine is available on the NHS.UK website. 
  • Letters are being sent out every week – you might not get your letter straight away.

How many people have been vaccinated?

Vaccination numbers are published daily: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/healthcare

Where will the jabs be administered? 

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

What are the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine?   

  • Some people may experience side effects after the vaccine. These are usually mild and are much less serious than developing coronavirus or complications associated with coronavirus. Most side effects 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.  If you have a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection. If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.

Is the NHS confident the vaccines are safe?   

  • Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent  experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.   
  • The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that the vaccines have  good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and we have full confidence  in their expert judgement and processes.  
  • As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. 
  • There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process,  and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider  population. 

How effective are the vaccines? 

  • The MHRA have said these vaccines are highly effective, but to get full protection  people need to come back for the second dose – this is really important.  
  • 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 OxfordAstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12  weeks apart. 

Will the vaccine protect you right away?

Once you have had the COVID-19 vaccine, it has been shown to reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. Each vaccine has been tested in more than 20,000 people in several different countries and shown to be safe.

It may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and a full course will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. We do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus, but we do expect it to reduce this risk. So, it is still important to follow the guidance in your local area to protect those around you.

To protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues you still need to:

  • practise social distancing
  • wear a face mask
  • wash your hands carefully and frequently
  • follow the current guidance

Can I take the vaccine whilst fasting for ramadan? 

The British Islamic Medical Association have issued specific advice urging Muslims observing Ramadan not to delay getting the vaccine, which says that taking the Covid-19 vaccines currently licensed in the UK does not invalidate a fast. They recommend that individuals should not delay their Covid vaccinations on account of Ramadan. The approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine does contain a very small amount of ethanol, but the British Islamic Medical Association recommends that eligible individuals in Muslim communities should still receive it.  The British Islamic Medical Association has also produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community on the contents of both vaccines.  

Can undocumented migrants receive the vaccine?

The Covid-19 vaccination programme is available to everyone, regardless of immigration status. In line with published national guidance, migrants to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will be eligible for a vaccine when it is their turn. An NHS number is not needed to be eligible for a Covid vaccination. However, it is helpful to be registered with a GP so that the NHS can invite patients to book a Covid-19 vaccination appointment when it is their turn.  Registration with a GP also enables the vaccinator to check for safety issues or medical reasons why the person should not be vaccinated at that time, and to check for previous vaccinations.  Patients do not need to show proof of address, ID or immigration status to register with a GP. This also applies if you are an asylum seeker, refugee, a homeless patient or an overseas visitor, whether lawfully in the UK or not.

I have coronavirus symptoms. Should I wait to get the vaccine?   

  • Yes. If you suspect you have coronavirus, Public Health England recommend that you wait 28 days from the date you begun feeling symptoms, or from the date of a positive coronavirus test if you are asymptomatic, before getting the vaccine.

What do I need to bring with me to the vaccination centre?

If you are taking medication, please bring a list of these with you to the vaccination centre. Do not bring the medicines themselves.

If you are taking a blood thinner called 'warfarin' you will also be going for regular blood tests to monitor the thickness of your blood using a test called INR. The INR test result is a number (for example 2.5). Please make sure you know your latest INR reading and when that was last checked. 

If you don't know this, you can get if from your GP surgery. If you are taking warfarin but we don't know your INR reading it can sometimes mean your vaccination cannot go ahead. The vaccination computers at the centre do not link back to your medical records so we can't look up your result on the day.

Can I get a vaccine privately?   

  • 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.

Will the vaccines work with the new strains?

  • 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.

I am confused about my second dose of the vaccine. Can you explain it this to me? 

  • 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. 

Can people pick what vaccine they want?   

  • 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. 

Does the vaccine include any parts from foetal or animal origin? 

Is it mandatory? 

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

I have heard the vaccine can make people infertile - is this true? 

  • There is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility. The theory that immunity to the spike protein could lead to fertility problems is not supported by any evidence. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibody to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems after Covid-19 disease.
  • Read the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives response to misinformation around Covid-19 vaccine and fertility.

Can pregnant women have the vaccine?

The latest advice, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is that the vaccine should be considered for pregnant women when their risk of exposure to the virus infection is high and cannot be avoided, or if the woman has underlying conditions that place her at a very high risk of serious complications of Covid-19. 

Women should discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on individual circumstances. Women who are breastfeeding can also be given the vaccine.

How does the vaccine work? 

  • 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.

How long will my vaccine be effective for? 

  • We expect these vaccines to work for at least a year – if not longer. This will be  constantly monitored.

What time will the opening hours of vaccination centres be? 

  • 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.

I’m a registered carer of someone in a priority group, when will I get the vaccine?

If you are caring for someone in one of the priority groups who would struggle to cope if you became unwell, the first thing we would recommend is to make sure that your GP knows that you are a carer. If you are eligible for the Carer's Allowance, you will receive a letter inviting you to have your vaccination.

It doesn’t matter if you are a paid or unpaid carer as long as you are registered as a carer.

Last Modified: 13/04/2021 10:28:31