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 booster

Who is eligible for the booster? 

Booster doses will be available on the NHS for people most at risk from COVID-19 who have had a 2nd dose of a vaccine at least 3 months ago.

This includes:

  • people aged 18 and over
  • people who live and work in care homes
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • people aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • people aged 16 and over who are a main carer for someone at high risk from COVID-19
  • people aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

People who are pregnant and in 1 of the eligible groups can also get a booster dose.

Why we need to get a booster

How do I get my 2nd or booster vaccination if I have had my previous covid-19 vaccinations while abroad?

You need to tell the NHS about COVID-19 vaccinations you've had abroad. You can do this by clicking here:

Visit this page to report your vaccinations to the NHS 

This service enables you to book an appointment to show evidence for any coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations you've had outside of England. This is so the NHS can securely update your vaccination record.

You can use this service if you:

  • are aged 18 years old or over
  • have an NHS number
  • have received one of these MHRA-approved vaccines outside of England - Oxford/AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty), Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) or Moderna (Spikevax)

Please note that there are currently a limited number of sites offering these appointments. This means there may not be many appointments available in your area at the moment. More appointments will become available over time.

Third dose for severely immunosuppressed people over 12

People with a weakened immune system are being offered a 3rd dose of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. This is also known as a 3rd primary dose.

If you had a weakened immune system when you had your first 2 doses, the vaccine may not have given you as much protection as it can for people who do not have a weakened immune system.

A 3rd dose may help give you better protection.

The 3rd vaccine dose for people with a weakened immune system is different to a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.

A 3rd dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is being offered to people aged 12 and over who had a weakened immune system when they had their first 2 doses.

This includes people who had or have:

  • a blood cancer (such as leukaemia or lymphoma)
  • a weakened immune system due to a treatment (such as steroid medicine, biological therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy)
  • an organ or bone marrow transplant
  • a condition that means you have a very high risk of getting infections
  • a condition or treatment your specialist advises makes you eligible for a 3rd dose

For more information visit this page

When can I get the vaccine?

If you belong to any of the following groups, you can book a vaccine online click here or by calling 119: 

  • you're aged 12 or older
  • you're at high risk from COVID-19 (clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable)
  • you have a learning disability
  • you're a carer for someone who would struggle to cope if you became unwell (If you have not already been invited speak to your GP if you to get added to their list)

You can book a Covid-19 booster dose if you are:

How will I know when I can get a vaccine?

If you are eligible you can book the vaccine now online (here) or by calling 119. You don't need to wait to be contacted.

If you are not yet eligible, the NHS will contact you and invite you to book a vaccine appointment when it’s your turn. You may receive a phone call, letter or text message from your GP practice or a letter from the national booking service, so it’s useful to:

  • make sure your GP practice has the most up to date information so that your notification comes to the right place
  • register with a GP if you are not already registered. Click here to find your local surgery
  • keep an eye out to make sure you receive the message. If you're not sure about following a link in a text message or giving your details to someone who calls you then you can book online click here or call 119.
  • let your GP surgery know if you are caring for someone with underlying health conditions who would struggle to cope if you became unwell as this will make you eligible now. You can help the vaccination effort by emailing your GP practice or using its website to make sure your local surgery knows you are an unpaid carer.

People may receive 'multiple invites' for coronavirus jabs due to a cross-over between national and local vaccination programmes. When you do get contacted to attend you may receive multiple invitations with different options and you can choose where to get your vaccine, if you receive a letter from the national booking service for the large vaccination centres or pharmacy services then you can wait to be contacted by your local GP service if a more local service is more accessible. If you’ve already had a vaccine or booked an appointment, then you don’t need to respond. You may receive a phone call, email, text message or letter. So it’s useful to keep an eye out to make sure you receive the message. If your contact details have changed lately, now’s a good time to make sure your GP practice has the most up to date information.

To find out about what to expect at your vaccine appointment please visit this page

Where will the vaccine 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.  

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.

What vaccines are currently available?

The COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK are:

  • Moderna vaccine
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • Janssen vaccine (not currently available)

How safe are the vaccines?

The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that all of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection. 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. As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. No medication is completely safe but the risks of serious side effects from these vaccines is very low and over 35 million people in the UK have already had a vaccine

Once the MHRA determined the vaccine was safe, it was given emergency approval which allowed it to be used immediately however, under this approval companies and healthcare professionals are immune from civil liability as long as the vaccine is used correctly. Nevertheless, the government has taken the precautionary step to ensure that, in the very rare possibility where someone is severely affected as a result of the vaccine, they can access financial assistance through the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme (VDPS).

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has risks for about ten in a million people, we have more detailed information which you can find here.

Can people choose what vaccine they receive?

You cannot usually choose which vaccine you have. When you book, you'll only be offered appointments for vaccines that are suitable for you.

Most people can have any of the COVID-19 vaccines, but some people are only offered certain vaccines.

For example:

  • if you're pregnant or under 40 you'll usually be offered appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines
  • if you're under 18, you'll only be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

How effective are the vaccines?

Anyone who gets COVID-19 can become seriously ill or have long-term effects (long COVID). The COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others.

Research has shown the vaccines help:

  • reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19
  • reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19
  • protect against COVID-19 variants

The 1st dose should give you some protection from 3 or 4 weeks after you've had it. But you need 2 doses for stronger and longer-lasting protection.

A booster dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine helps improve the protection you have from your first 2 doses of the vaccine.

It helps give you longer-term protection against getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

What's in the COVID-19 vaccines and how they work?

What ingredients are in the vaccine? What if I have allergies/dietary requirements?

The COVID-19 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.

You can find out about the ingredients in the vaccines currently available in the UK:

The approved Covid-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Foundation is a UK-based charity dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals, they have published recommendations for people who are vegan and considering having a vaccine (https://www.peta.org.uk/blog/vegans-covid-19-vaccine/)

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

  • 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.

What are the potential side effects? 

The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

They can cause some side effects, but not everyone gets them.

Any side effects are usually mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm from the injection
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

More serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or blood clotting, are very rare.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines side effects and safety

Can I have the vaccine if I am pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding? 

You can be vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) if:

  • you're pregnant or think you might be
  • you're breastfeeding
  • you're trying for a baby or might get pregnant in the future

If you're pregnant:

If you're pregnant and have not had a COVID-19 vaccine yet, it's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

This is because these vaccines have been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and no safety concerns have been identified.

If you've already had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for your 1st dose and did not have any serious side effects, you should have it again for your 2nd dose.

The vaccines cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

If you're breastfeeding:

You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccines and cannot pass it to your baby through your breast milk.

If you're breastfeeding, the vaccines you can have depends on your age:

  • if you're 40 or over, you can have any of the COVID-19 vaccines
  • if you're under 40 and do not have a health condition that increases your risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, it's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine

The Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines are preferable in people under 40 because of an extremely rare blood clotting problem linked to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Fertility and COVID-19 vaccination:

There's no evidence the COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant.

There's no need to avoid getting pregnant after being vaccinated.

What is being done to encourage vaccine uptake in BAME and other disproportionately affected communities/groups?

We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be more  hesitant in taking the vaccine than others. The NHS is working collaboratively with  partners to ensure vaccine messages reaches as diverse an audience as possible  and are tailored to meet their needs. This includes engagement with community and faith-led groups, charities and other  voluntary organisations.

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.

If I have already had Covid-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?

The NHS recommends that people go ahead and get the vaccine when it’s their turn, even if they’ve already had Covid-19 and recovered. There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of Covid-19 infection, or with detectable Covid-19 antibody. Also, experts don’t yet have a good understanding of how long natural immunity might last and whether you are protected against the various strains of the virus. A vaccine can boost your protection without causing harm and is the best form of defence against the virus.

People who have had COVID-19 infection can be vaccinated after around four weeks of symptoms starting, or four weeks after a positive test in someone who had no symptoms.

If you are invited for your vaccination during this period, please let your GP practice know or book an appointment through the National Booking Service after this time.

If you are suffering from ‘Long Covid’ and you are eligible for a vaccination, you should discuss this with your GP or another healthcare professional who will be able to advise you on whether or not to get the vaccine.

Are the vaccinations safe for people with long-term conditions?

Vaccines will be approved if it is considered safe for people with long-term conditions.  These vaccines are safe and effective for the vast majority of people – they have been tested on tens of thousands of people and assessed by experts. Your GP can advise on when you are eligible and will contact you with an appointment when it’s your turn.

A very small number of people who are at risk of COVID-19 cannot have the vaccine – this includes people who have severe allergies. Everybody will also be screened for potential allergic reactions before getting vaccinated. All vaccinators will have the training they need to deal with any rare cases of adverse reactions, and all venues will be equipped to care for people who need it – just like with any other vaccine. 

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. Women of childbearing age, those who are pregnant, or breastfeeding should read the detailed information available on the NHS UK.

Is it safe to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine? 

The MHRA is carrying out a detailed review of reports of an extremely rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of people who had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

It's not yet clear why it affects some people.

The COVID-19 vaccine can help stop you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. For people aged 40 or over and those with other health conditions, the benefits of being vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risk of clotting problems.

For people under 40 without other health conditions, it's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

 

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.

All viruses mutate, including the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective. This does not mean the COVID-19 Vaccines will not be effective on new variants.

How do I change my vaccination appointment?

If you can't make your appointment then cancel it and rebook another appointment.

You can do this either by the details that you get on your appointment confirmation, by contacting your GP (if they arranged your appointment) or through the NHS Book or manage your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination page.

Changing your appointment online is easy:

  1. Click this link
  2. Cancel your existing vaccination appointment
  3. Book a new vaccination at a date that you can make

You'll need to answer some questions when you click through like giving your NHS number - this is a 10 digit number you can find on any letter the NHS has sent you. For example, 485 777 3546

If you do not know your NHS number you can still book your vaccination appointments.

Do I need a COVID Pass and how can I access one?

An NHS COVID Pass shows your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination details or test results. You may be asked to show your pass to travel abroad, or at events and venues in the UK when asked for proof of your COVID-19 status.

You can get the NHS Covid Pass either:

  • two weeks after your second vaccine dose (From 19 November 2021, your COVID Pass will include your COVID-19 booster vaccination if you have had one. There may be a delay for any vaccination appearing on your COVID pass of up to 2 weeks)
  • if you've had a negative PCR or lateral flow test result in the past 48 hours - and have reported it on the NHS website (this pass lasts for 48 hours after the result)
  • if you have had a positive PCR test result within the past six months, and have finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days after the result)

You can access your COVID pass by

My religion does not recommend having the COVID-19 vaccination; is there further information?

Most religious groups and faith leaders in the UK and throughout the world have been working to address concerns about the COVID-19 Vaccine, provide people with evidence-based information, and support individuals in making an informed decision about whether to have the vaccine.

If you have religious concerns about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, please discuss them with a trusted faith leader and have a conversation with a clinician at one of our walk in vaccination clinics.

Vaccinations for under 18s 

Which vaccine will 12-15 year olds receive and how many doses? 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. 1st and 2nd doses are being offered to children aged 12 to 15 to give them the best protection against COVID-19.

This includes children who turn 12 on the date of vaccination.

Some children are being offered 2 doses of a vaccine if either:

  • they live with someone who is more likely to get infections
  • they have a condition that means they're at high risk from COVID-19

Most children will be given their vaccine at school during school hours. They will be given 1 dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

As a parent or guardian you will get a letter or email with information about when the vaccine will be offered, and you'll be asked to give consent.

Why are 12-15 year olds being asked to have the COVID-19 vaccine? 

COVID-19 is usually mild in most children, but it can make some children unwell. 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine gives good protection against your child getting seriously ill.

Vaccinating children can also help stop the spread of COVID-19 to other people, including within schools.

Can 16-17 year olds consent without their parents?  

16 and 17-year-olds who are considering taking the COVID -19 vaccine will not need parental consent to do so. Current UK guidance states that at 16 years of age a young person is presumed in law to have the capacity to consent, so young people aged 16 or 17 years should consent to their own medical treatment. 

How does the consent process work for 12 to 15 year olds?    

All parents, or those with parental responsibility, are asked for consent and will usually make this decision jointly with their children. The information leaflet is addressed to the child (as the recipient of the vaccine) and encourages them to discuss the decision about the vaccine with their parents. 

Healthcare professionals will speak to the young person and make every effort to contact the parent to seek their verbal consent. Young people may express a wish to have the vaccine and may have the capacity to provide informed consent themselves.  Healthcare professionals have expertise in vaccinating young people and will be responsible for assessing whether they have enough understanding to self-consent.

How will needle phobia be managed? 

The team delivering vaccinated at local vaccination sites are experienced and will use practised methods to avoid any anxiety and stress, among young people. We have allowed for enough time to manage needle phobia. As a parent, please do give them reassurance.  

For more information visit the NHS South West London CCG's website for the most complete and up-to-date information.

Click here

Can you get the flu vaccination and COVID-19 booster vaccination together? 

Most people who can get a COVID-19 booster vaccine are also eligible for the annual flu vaccine. If you are offered both vaccines, it's safe to have them at the same time. Co-administration will be considered if the patient is eligible for both programmes and supply and regulation allows. 

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