COVID-19 Vaccinations FAQ

When will I get the vaccine? Where is it distributed? Find the answers to all your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine below in this FAQ.
covid vaccine

When can I get the vaccine? 

  • An independent group of experts has recommended that the NHS first offers  vaccines to those at highest risk of catching the disease and of suffering serious  complications or dying from COVID-19. The phased vaccination programme will see  people aged 80 and above among the first to receive the life-saving jab  
  • When it is the right time for you to receive your vaccination, you will receive an  invitation to come forward. This may be via the phone, or through a letter either from  your GP or the national booking system
  • We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but we are asking people not  to contact us to get an appointment as you will not be able to get one until you are  contacted

How will I know when I can get a vaccine?

  • 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

Where will the vaccine be administered? 

  • Since 8 December over 500 local vaccination services and nearly 80 hospital hubs  have launched what is the largest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS - at the same time as the whole of the health service has been dealing with the  intensifying Covid pressures
  • Over the coming weeks we will continue to build capacity across the system to offer  more vaccinations with additional local vaccination services, hospital and vaccination  centres coming on-line

What vaccines are currently available?

  •  Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of  protection and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA
  • The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine  candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses. This  includes:  
    • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine  
    • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
    • 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is also being assessed by the  MHRA. 

How safe are the vaccines?

  • 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 both of these 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
  • Full protection kicks in around a week or two after that second dose, which is why it’s  also important that when you do get invited, you act on that and get yourself booked  in as soon as possible. Even those who have received a vaccine still need to follow  social distancing and other guidance

What happens if a person has the first jab but not the second?

  • 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 choose what vaccine they receive?

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

What ingredients are in the vaccine?

  • There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are  published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website. 
  • For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here
  • For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here

What are the potential side effects? 

  • These are important details which the MHRA always consider when assessing  candidate vaccines for use
  • For these vaccines, like lots of others, they have identified that some people might  feel slightly unwell, but they report that no significant side effects have been  observed in the tens of thousands of people involved in trials
  • All patients will be provided with information on the vaccine they have received, how  to look out for any side effects, and what to do if they do occur, including reporting  them to the MHRA.  
  • More information on possible side effects can be found here

Can I pay for a COVID-19 vaccine privately or at a pharmacy?

No, the COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups  and it is a free vaccination

Is the vaccine mandatory?

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

Advice if you are of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

The MHRA have updated their guidance to say that pregnant women and those who  are breastfeeding can have the vaccine but should discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks


Anyone with a previous history of allergic reactions to the ingredients of the vaccine should not receive it, but those with any other allergies such as a food allergy can now have the vaccine

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