Covid-19 vaccination: your questions answered

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In this article

What is the Covid-19 vaccine?

What is the Covid-19 vaccine and why get vaccinated?

The Covid-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm in two doses with a gap between doses of 8-12 weeks. The coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine is safe and effective. It will give you the best protection against coronavirus and will save thousands of lives. 

Which vaccines against coronavirus are available?

In the UK, the government is using three vaccines, Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna, to inoculate people against Covid-19. The Janssen vaccine is expected to become available in the UK later this year.

These vaccines do not contain egg or animal products. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine contains a tiny amount of alcohol, but this is less than in some everyday foods like bread. The vaccines are suitable for people of all faiths. Find out more about the vaccines currently available in the UK:

Are Covid-19 vaccines safe?

All three vaccines underwent extensive safety trials and authorisation by the independent medicines’ regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). People aged 40 and under will only be offered appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Find out more about Covid-19 vaccines safety

How many doses of the vaccine do I need?

You need two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine at two appointments. You will get the second dose eight to 12 weeks after getting your first. The government has started administering a third ‘booster’ jab for certain vulnerable groups – find out more.

If you’ve had a positive Covid-19 test, you should wait four weeks from the date you had the test before you book an appointment. If you are under 40, you will only be shown appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines if booking online.

People will get the same vaccine for their first and second dose. A new study is looking at what happens when patients get a different vaccine for their second dose. 

Should I be worried about vaccine side effects?

The Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK met strict standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness. Millions have received a Covid-19 vaccine, and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, are rare. No long-term complications have been reported. 

They can cause some side effects, but not everyone gets them. Side effects are usually mild and should not last longer than a week. They include: a sore arm from the injection, feeling tired, headache, feeling achy or feeling or being sick. Find out more about Covid-19 vaccines side effects and safety.

Can I have the Covid-19 and flu vaccine at the same time?

Yes.

Find out more about the flu jab for disabled children, young people, and carers.

Vaccine eligibility


Who is eligible to get the vaccine?

Adults

All adults aged 18 or over can now get vaccinated against Covid-19.

You can book online now for appointments at a vaccination centre or a pharmacy. Or you can wait for your GP surgery to contact you and book your appointments with them. You usually have the second dose eight weeks after the first. If you book online, you can view, cancel or rebook the appointment if you need to.

16 and 17 year olds

Young people aged 16 and 17 can now get a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The NHS will contact you when it’s your turn to get the vaccine. You’ll be invited to a local NHS service such as a GP surgery.

12-15 year olds

All children aged 12 to 15 can now get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. This will be offered from Monday 20 September and will mostly be given in schools.

Children aged 12 to 15 in clinical risk groups had already started to receive their vaccination in preparation for the autumn term. They should get two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least eight weeks apart.

See more questions about vaccines for children.

Booster jabs

The government is offering Covid booster jabs from Monday 20 September to certain vulnerable groups. Those eligible include over-50s, younger adults with learning disabilities or underlying health conditions aged 16 to 49 years, frontline health and care workers, and unpaid adult carers. 

The NHS will contact people directly to invite them for their booster injection. See more about booster jabs.

I am pregnant. Is it safe for me to have the Covid-19 vaccine?

Yes. If you’re pregnant, or think you might be, you can have the Covid-19 vaccine.  

Pregnant women will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine because they’ve been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and have not caused any safety issues.

During the booking process, you will be asked if you are pregnant. This is to make sure you’re offered an appointment for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.


Covid booster jabs

What are Covid booster jabs?

The government is offering Covid booster jabs from Monday 20 September to certain vulnerable groups. The booster jabs should be given at least six months after a person had their second dose of the Covid vaccine. It is recommended that all boosters will be the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also confirmed they will be giving booster jabs to priority groups starting soon.

Who is eligible for Covid booster jabs?

Those eligible include over-50s, younger adults with learning disabilities or underlying health conditions aged 16 to 49 years, frontline health and care workers, and unpaid adult carers. 

The NHS will contact people directly to invite them for their booster injection.


Covid vaccines and children

Which children can get a Covid vaccine and how many doses will they get?

The four UK governments are now offering a single dose of the vaccine to all healthy 12-17 year olds. There will be a possibility of a second dose in the spring school term or later, once more international data is available.

Children aged 12-17 who are in recognised clinical risk groups should get two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least 8 weeks apart.

Some individuals who are immunosuppressed due to underlying health conditions or medical treatment may not mount a full immune response to two vaccine doses. People aged 12 and over with severely weakened immune systems will be offered a third Covid vaccine shot in the hope of giving extra protection to those most vulnerable to the virus.

More information about dosage is available on page 17 of the Green Book.

Under 18s will be contacted directly to be invited for their vaccine.

Are vaccines for children safe?

Yes. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12-15 in June. This followed a rigorous review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group.

Why did the government approve the vaccine for 12-15 year olds against the JCVI’s recommendation?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had concluded that the health benefits of vaccinating this age group do outweigh the risks, but it stopped short of recommending it to all children because the margin of benefit is slim.

The committee then asked the UK’s four chief medical officers to analyse this from a wider perspective, such as the effects on education and school absence — something which the JCVI is not qualified to consider. The vaccine was approved for 12-15 year olds because it will both keep them safe and prevent disruption to their education.

My child was eligible for the vaccine as part of a clinically vulnerable group, but I’ve heard nothing. What should I do?

Although all children aged 12-18 can now receive the vaccine, you should still talk to your GP if you haven’t heard anything. We have some advice on what you can do if you’ve not heard.

Can under 12s get a vaccine?

No. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorised for children aged 12 or older in the UK. This followed a US clinical trial of around 1,000 children aged 12 to 15 that found side effects in this group were generally short-lived and mild to moderate.

Until more safety data is available and has been evaluated, children under 12 will not be offered the vaccine.

It is not clear whether doctors will consider ‘off label’ (unlicensed) vaccines for under 12s as they did do for children aged 12-15. Find out more: Off-label or unlicensed use of medicines: prescribers’ responsibilities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Will accessible vaccine centres be available for my child?

NHS England has issued guidance to clinicians on making reasonable adjustments when giving Covid vaccination to people with learning disabilities. 

There are also vaccine clinics for people with learning disabilities, led by learning disability nurses. 

After you’ve had the vaccine

Will I be immune to Covid-19 after having the jab? 

No. Protection from any vaccine takes time to build up. In general, the older you are the longer it takes. Protection takes at least two weeks to build in younger people and at least three weeks in older people before you can expect to have a good antibody response. 

A single standard dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is 76% effective at protecting you from serious Covid-19 infection for the first 90 days once the immune system has built this protection. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed slightly higher efficacy in the lab studies. To be properly protected, make sure you attend the appointment for your second dose.

There is a small chance you might still get coronavirus even if you have the vaccine. No vaccine offers 100% protection against any disease. This means it is important to continue to follow social distancing guidance

Will the vaccine protect me against the Delta coronavirus variant?

Recent research by Public Health England found that two doses of the coronavirus vaccine were highly effective in preventing people being hospitalised with the Delta variant. Experts continue to monitor the effectiveness of available vaccines against this new dominant variant circulating in the UK.

Can I do what I want after I have been vaccinated?

For now it is essential everyone continues to follow latest social distancing guidance whether vaccinated or not. Tens of millions of people need to be vaccinated. Hospital admissions and deaths from Covid are decreasing,, but people still are advised to continue to be cautious as restrictions are relaxed.