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Vaccine information and questions

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is available to:

  • People aged 12 and over
  • People who live or work in care homes
  • Health and social care workers
  • People who are eligible for Carer’s Allowance - find out more

Age 12-15: Children aged 12 to 15 in England are now being offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Healthy children will primarily receive their COVID-19 vaccination in their school with alternative provision for those who are home schooled, in secure services or specialist mental health settings. Parents and young people in schools will receive further communication about this directly via their schools.

Age 16-17: People aged between 16 and 17 and 9 months old can now book their vaccine appointment online through the National Booking system.

Age 18+: If you are aged 18 or over and have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, you can contact the NHS to arrange a jab. The easiest way to arrange a vaccination is through the National Booking system. Anyone unable to book online can call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.

If a suitable and convenient slot is not available people can also call their GP practice.

How can 16 and 17 year olds have the vaccine?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that all 16 and 17 year olds should receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People aged between 16 and 17 years and 9 months old can book an appointment online or attend a walk-in session.

How can 12 to 15 year olds have the vaccine?

People aged 12 to 15 in England are now being offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, following advice from the four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs).

In line with the recommendation of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Government sought the views of the 4 UK CMOs on the wider issues that are relevant to the health of children.

The NHS is rolling out a schools-based vaccination programme, which is the successful model used for vaccinations including for HPV and Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP), supported by GPs and community pharmacies. 

However, during October 2021 half term, to ensure that this age group can be vaccinated as soon as possible, appointments can also be booked (from 23 October), on the NHS booking service – currently open only to those aged 16 and up. This will enable young people to get a jab at a vaccination centre in the same way as adults can. 

Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by vaccination healthcare staff prior to vaccination in line with existing school vaccination programmes.

Healthy school-aged children aged 12 to 15 will primarily receive their COVID-19 vaccination in their school with alternative provision for those who are home schooled, in secure services or specialist mental health settings.

Read further information about the vaccine rollout for children.

What about the booster vaccination?

The Government has announced an autumn booster programme is about to commence, with a single jab given at least six months after a person has had their second dose. Those eligible include; care home residents, health and social care workers, people aged over 50, those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, adult carers, and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

The NHS will let you know when it's your turn to have a booster dose. It's important not to contact the NHS for one before then. 

Is the vaccine safe?

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Any COVID-19 vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety. 

Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

So far, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or clotting problems, have been very rare.

To find out more about the vaccines approved in the UK, see:

Find out more about the JCVI guidance on the COVID-19 vaccination of young people aged 16 to 17 and information about the vaccination of 12 to 15 year olds.

What is the concern around the Astra Zeneca vaccine and how does it affect me?

Recently there have been reports of a very rare condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after vaccination. This is being carefully reviewed but the risk factors for this condition are not yet clear. Although this condition remains extremely rare there appears to be a higher risk in people who have had the first dose of the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine. Around 4 people develop this condition for every million doses of AZ vaccine doses given. This is seen slightly more often in younger people and tends to occur between 4 days and 2 weeks following vaccination. This condition can also occur naturally, and clotting problems are a common complication of COVID-19 infection. An increased risk has not yet been seen after other COVID-19 vaccines but is being carefully monitored.

If you are a healthy younger person aged 18 to 39:

  • The MHRA and the JCVI advises that all adults in this age group (including health and social care workers) should still receive any of the available COVID-19 vaccines
  • The benefits of vaccination in protecting you against the serious consequences of COVID-19 outweigh any risk of this rare condition
  • You should also complete your course with the same vaccine you had for the first dose
  • Currently JCVI has advised that it is preferable for people under 30 to have a vaccine other than AZ
  • If you choose to have another COVID-19 vaccine you may have to wait to be protected
  • You may wish to go ahead with the AZ vaccination after you have considered all the risks and benefits for you

I’m under 30 and have had the AZ jab, what about the second dose?

  • If you have already had a first dose of AZ vaccine without suffering any serious side effects you should complete the course
  • This includes people aged 18 to 29 years who are health and social care workers, unpaid carers and family members of those who are immunosuppressed
  • It is expected that the first dose of the vaccine will have given you some protection, particularly against severe disease.

I am worried about having my second dose of AstraZeneca

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. It is important that you get your 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to give you the best protection. View further information from the NHS and Public Health England.

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.

Will the vaccines work with the new strains? 

Scientists continue to look carefully at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. There is no evidence currently that the new strains will be resistant to the vaccines we have, and vaccination remains the best protection we have against COVID-19. Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective. 

Can I get tested for antibodies after vaccination?

The tests our local lab offers for COVID antibodies only show if a patient has had a previous infection. They do not confirm if a patient has developed antibodies following a vaccination.

Can I choose which vaccine I get? 

Any vaccines that the NHS provides has passed strict tests on their safety and effectiveness. However, the JCVI has advised that for adults under age 40 without underlying health conditions should receive an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – where available and only if this does not cause substantial delays in being vaccinated. 

Does the vaccine have any side effects?

Most side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • A sore arm where the needle went in or feeling tired
  • A headache
  • Feeling achy or feeling or being sick

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to. You may get a high temperature or feel hot or shivery 1 or 2 days after having your vaccination. But if you have a high temperature that lasts longer than 2 days, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste you may have COVID-19. Stay at home and get a test. If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.

Find out more about the side effects.

Does the vaccine include any parts from foetal or animal origin?

There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

Do I need to have the vaccine if I have already had COVID-19?

Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection.

Do I have to follow the COVID-19 public health guidance, if I have received the vaccine?  

Yes. The vaccine remains one of the main ways the country will reduce the impact of the virus on people’s health and on our healthcare services. Experts know the vaccine reduces the chance of people suffering from COVID-19, and while they do not yet know if it will stop people catching or passing on the virus, they expect it will reduce this risk. 

Therefore, there is a small chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have had the vaccine. Therefore, those who have been vaccinated must follow the same public health guidance of hands, face, space, and limiting social mixing as they did before. This includes getting tested if you display COVID-19 symptoms.

Do I still need to self-isolate if I have had the COVID-19 vaccine?

From Monday 16 August, people who are double jabbed (with the COVID-19 vaccination) or aged under 18 will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case. Instead, if they have been identified as close contacts by NHS Test and Trace, they will be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible to check if they have the virus and for variants of concern.

As double jabbed people identified as close contacts are still at risk of being infected, people are advised to consider other precautions such as wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, and limit contact with other people, especially with anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

Anyone who tests positive following the PCR test will still be legally required to self-isolate, irrespective of their vaccination status or age in order to break onwards chains of transmission.

How can I get my COVID vaccination status for travel?

If you’re planning to travel abroad, you can get proof that you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 via the NHS app, NHS website, or by calling 119. Please do not contact your GP about your vaccination status as GPs cannot provide letters showing your vaccine record. 

Some countries may also require a negative COVID-19 test result. Always check the entry requirements for the country you are visiting before you book your travel. Step-by-step travel advice can be found on GOV.UK.

What is the advice if you are of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding?

If you are pregnant, you should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when you are eligible for it. It's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine because they have been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and have not caused any safety issues. You can also have the COVID-19 vaccine if you are breastfeeding. Speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination. They will discuss the benefits and risks with you. There's no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant. There's no need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

Read the latest COVID-19 vaccine advice if you are pregnant, may get pregnant or are breastfeeding on GOV.UK

Read the latest Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives statement on the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility

View COVID-19 vaccine and fertility FAQs (pdf, 128 KB)

I am a student – should I have the vaccine at University or at home?

Students will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when their age or clinical risk group become eligible. See our helpful fact sheet for more information on where students (including international students) can have their vaccine (pdf, 307 KB).  

Can Muslims have the vaccine under Islamic law?

Yes, after discussion with experts, the British Islamic Medical Association encourages individuals to take the COVID vaccine as advised by their medical practitioner.

Could the vaccine be less effective for Black people and other minority groups?

No, there is not any evidence that either of the vaccines will work differently among different ethnic groups. Around 10% of the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial participants were Black or African.

Other information about the vaccine

Vaccine information in easy-read format

Vaccine information in other languages

 

Updated: 21 October 2021