Covid-19 vaccination: your questions answered

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In this article

What is the Covid-19 vaccine?

1. 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 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. 

2. 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:

3. 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 or Moderna vaccines. Find out more about Covid-19 vaccines safety

4. How many doses of the vaccine do I need?

You need two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine at two appointments. Book both appointments at the same time. You will get the second dose eight to 12 weeks after getting your first.

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.

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. 

5. 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

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

You are advised to leave at least seven days between getting the flu jab and the Covid-19 vaccine. Find out more about the flu jab for disabled children, young people, and carers

Who can get the vaccine?


7. Who is eligible to get the vaccine?

All adults aged 18 or over can now get vaccinated against Covid-19 (on the 19 July 2021, the JCVI also recommended young people within 3 months of their 18th birthday should be offered a vaccine).

Clinically extremely vulnerable people aged 16 and over should be offered the Pfizer vaccine. People aged 16 and over who live with adults who have a weakened immune system are also a priority for the vaccine.

Young people aged 16 and 17 who are young carers should be offered the Pfizer vaccine (see  NHS letter went out to local vaccination sites, pharmacies and local GPs)

You do not need to wait to be contacted by the NHS. If you were contacted but have not booked your appointments, you are still eligible and can book your appointments anytime.

8. How do I book my Covid-19 vaccine appointment?

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.

9. 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.

10. I have heard people with Down syndrome are more at risk if they get Covid-19. Are they a vaccine priority?

People aged 18 and over who have Down syndrome are on the clinically extremely vulnerable list and a top priority for the vaccine. Young people who have Down syndrome aged 16-18 are in another priority group for vaccination. Mencap has useful Easy Read materials on the COVID vaccine.

Disabled children and clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people

11. Will clinically vulnerable disabled children, and children with severe health problems, get the vaccine soon?

On 19 July 2021 the government committee on vaccinations (JCVI) announced that children aged 12 and over at increased risk of Covid-19 will be offered the Pfizer vaccine, which the UK regulator said was safe and effective for this age group last month.

This includes children aged 12 to 15 with severe neurodisabilities, Down syndrome, immunosuppression or profound and multiple or severe learning disabilities.

The Joint Commission on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) also recommends that children and young people aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person should be offered the vaccine.

The JCVI is not recommending routine vaccination outside of these age or risk groups.

So this does leave some gaps in eligibility for disabled young people and those under 12 still can’t access the vaccine.

Answers to your questions about vaccine availability for some clinically vulnerable children announced on 19 July 2021

We have written separate questions and answers for families about the JCVI announcement made on 19 July 2021.

Read the latest JCVI guidance in full and the  letter from the National Director for the COVID Vaccine Programme at NHS England to all GPs 

Draft timetable for roll-out in Scotland COVID-19 vaccination programme: JCVI advice for vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 17 years (scot.nhs.uk)

13. Can my child get a covid vaccine off-label or unlicensed?

Sometimes.

A few parents have managed to secure a Covid vaccine ‘off label’ (unlicensed) for their children with severe health conditions aged 12-15. ‘Off label’ means the Covid vaccine must be recommended by the child’s doctor who will be legally responsible for prescribing the vaccine. The child’s doctor can either vaccinate the child themselves or delegate this to another clinician via a Specific Patient Direction

Steps you can take to secure a Covid vaccine for your vulnerable child.

Government’s expert advisers recommend that clinically extremely vulnerable people aged 16 and over should be offered the Pfizer vaccine. People aged 16 and over who live with adults who have a weakened immune system are also a priority for the vaccine.

After you’ve had the vaccine

13. 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

14. 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.

15. 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.