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Covid-19 vaccination: your questions answered

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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 the upper arm. The coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine is safe and effective. It will give you and your children 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 (Comirnaty), Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna (Spikevax), to inoculate people against Covid-19.

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

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 (NHS).

Vaccine eligibility

Who is eligible to get the vaccine?

Children aged 5-11

Children aged five to 11 in clinical risk groups (as defined in the Green Book p22 [PDF]) are eligible for two paediatric doses (10 micrograms) of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at an interval of at least eight weeks. Children aged five to 11 who live with someone who is immunosuppressed are also eligible.

The use of a fractional adult vaccine (in other words, a smaller dose of the adult’s vaccine, rather than the specific dose prepared for children) can be given off-label. This has to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Find out more: Off-label or unlicensed use of medicines: prescribers’ responsibilities (www.gov.uk)

Most eligible 5-11 year olds will get vaccinated at their local GP surgery, hospital or specialist children’s centre. Where this isn’t possible, local arrangements will be in place with community pharmacies, local vaccine hubs and in some cases at a child’s special school.

If you haven’t received a vaccine invitation for your child by the end of January 2022 and think they’re eligible, contact your GP.

See more questions on vaccines for children.

Children aged 12 to 15

All children aged 12-15 in the UK can get two doses of the Pfizer vaccine 12 weeks apart. Either your child will get their vaccines at school, or you can use the national online booking service or visit a walk-in centre.

Children aged 12-15 who are clinically vulnerable (see the Green Book p22 [PDF]), or who live with individuals of any age who are immunosuppressed, should get two doses at least eight weeks apart, rather than 12. They are also eligible for a third booster dose. These children will be sent a letter inviting them to arrange their vaccines at a local NHS service, such as the GP.

Children over 12 with a severely weakened immune system are eligible for a third dose (not the same as a booster) eight weeks after their second dose, followed by a fourth booster dose at least three months after that. If your child is eligible, the NHS will let you know where and when to get their vaccines. You can also visit a walk-in centre to get their third dose and fourth booster dose, but you’ll need a letter from a GP or hospital proving eligibility.

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

See more questions on vaccines for children.

Young people and adults aged over 16

Anyone over 16 years old can get two doses of the Covid vaccine and a third booster vaccine three months after their second dose. Use the national online booking service or visit a walk-in centre.

Anyone over 12 with a severely weakened immune system is eligible for a third dose (not the same as a booster) eight weeks after their second dose, followed by a fourth booster dose at least three months after that. The NHS will contact you about when and where to get the vaccines. You can also visit a walk-in centre to get the third dose and fourth booster dose, but you’ll need a letter from a GP or hospital proving eligibility. Over 18s can book their third dose using the national online booking service but will need to bring proof of eligibility to their appointment.

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. 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.

Can me or my child 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.

My child recently had Covid-19. How long do they now have to wait to get a vaccine dose?

Healthy children aged 12 to 17 are advised to wait 12 weeks after testing positive for coronavirus before having their Covid jab. Previously, the advice was to leave a four-week gap. The longer gap does not apply to children deemed at higher risk because of underlying health conditions or if they live with vulnerable adults.

Covid vaccines and children

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

See our section on vaccine eligibility for different age groups.

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 2021 and use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 5-11 year olds in December 2021. This followed a rigorous review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group.

Are they using the same definition of clinically extremely vulnerable for children asked to shield?

No. There may be some crossover with this list, but the JCVI advice is that this new guidance applies to children aged 5 -11 who are in one of the clinical risk groups outlined in the Green Book (table four; p22) [PDF].

What happens if I want the vaccine for my child but they don’t fall into those categories?

Speak to your GP or clinician about this. They will be able to clarify the categories and whether or not your child falls into them.

What should I do if my GP/clinicians refuses my child a vaccine?

Please email una.summerson@contact.org.uk. We will collect issues and raise them with government officials.

My child is under five / six years old but not clinically at-risk. Can they get a vaccine?

No. The JCVI is not recommending routine vaccination for 5-11 year olds outside high-risk groups, so this does leave some gaps in eligibility for disabled children aged 5-11

Under fives still can’t access the vaccine.

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

If your child is aged 5-11, we advise that if you haven’t heard anything from your GP or hospital by the end of January 2022, get in touch with them.

Speak to your GP now if your child is over 12 and eligible for a third booster dose or a third dose and fourth booster dose and you haven’t heard anything.

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 the vaccine

Will my child 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

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.