Read more about the vaccines in our fact files:
Here we answer the most common questions about the vaccination programme.
Also there are specific questions on the booster campaign.
Before any vaccine can be used, it must pass strict quality, safety and effectiveness tests and be granted approval by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The COVID-19 vaccine is no different and has been approved by the MHRA.
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short term, lasting no longer than a week, and not everyone gets them. These may include:
If required, paracetamol can help relieve some discomfort.
There have been reports of extremely rare cases of blood clots. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives. The MHRA, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have both said that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults.
The JCVI advises as a precaution that it’s preferable for people under the age of 40 with no underlying health conditions to be offered an alternative vaccine where possible once they are eligible.
Every single vaccine authorised for use in the UK has been assessed for safety by the MHRA.
Millions of people have already received the Covid-19 vaccine. The MHRA operates the Yellow Card scheme on behalf of the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM). The scheme collects and monitors information on suspected safety concerns and relies on voluntary reporting of suspected adverse incidents by healthcare professionals and members of the public (users, patients and healthcare professionals). You can find out more at yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk
The average age of people in intensive care is 60, but people much younger have been seriously ill and died too, with thousands more still suffering the effects of Long COVID after what might have been a mild initial case.
Common long COVID symptoms include:
If we’ve learned anything from this last year, it’s that nobody is really safe. Anyone can get COVID-19, including young people, and anyone can spread it. Getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and others around you from the virus, vaccines reduce infections, hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19.
National guidance says that if it is confirmed that you have COVID-19, vaccination should be deferred so that you can recover from the virus.
Ideally, this will be four weeks after the onset of symptoms or four weeks from the first confirmed positive test if you have not had symptoms.
You should not have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to:
Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction. Serious allergic reactions are rare. If you do have a reaction to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and can treat them immediately.
It’s very important to get vaccinated to protect you and your baby. This is because you’re more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 if you’re pregnant – and your baby may also be at risk.
It is preferable for pregnant women 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.
There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 causes miscarriage of affects your baby’s development.
It is safe for you to have the COVID-19 vaccine if you are breastfeeding. There is no evidence that the vaccine has any effect on the chances of becoming pregnant and there is no need to avoid pregnancy after being vaccinated.
The vaccine can’t give you or your baby COVID-19. Speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccine to discuss the benefits and risks.
Search ‘pregnancy and coronavirus’ on nhs.uk for more information.
There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility.
There is no mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women’s fertility. Evidence has not been presented that women who have been vaccinated have gone on to have fertility problems.
Likewise, the theory that immunity to the spike protein could lead to fertility problems is not supported by evidence. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibodies to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems in people who have already had COVID-19.
More information on COVID-19 vaccines, fertility and fertility treatment is available from the British Fertility Society (BFS) and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS).
The COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in the UK do not contain any components of animal origin and so, yes, they are vegetarian.
Vegan Society’s view Vegan Society response to Covid-19 vaccine | The Vegan Society
Since all medications currently go through animal testing and animal products are commonly used in their manufacture, decisions around taking medication can be complex for vegans. The definition of veganism recognises that it is not always possible or practicable for vegans to avoid participating in animal use, which is particularly relevant to medical situations. In the case of COVID-19, vaccination is playing a fundamental role in tackling the pandemic and saving lives. As there is currently a legal requirement that all vaccines are tested on animals, at this point in time it is impossible to have a vaccine that has been created without animal use.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine contains a tiny amount of ethanol. Less than what you would find in some of your daily groceries like bread. Faith Leaders and Muslim Scholars have said that the vaccine is not Haram.
The approved COVID-19 vaccines are suitable for people of all faiths. They don’t contain any components of animal origin or foetal cells.
Each of the vaccines has been rigorously tested on people across the world, and over 137 million doses have already been given in the UK alone. Worldwide, nearly 10 billion doses have been administered. It is safe for men, women and children over the age of 12 from all different ethnic backgrounds.
Vaccines offer important protection to reduce risk, but they don’t make you invincible. Protection from any vaccine takes time to build up. In general, the older you are the longer it takes. It will take at least two weeks in younger people and at least three weeks in older people before you can expect to have a good antibody response.
No, you can’t. But it’s possible to have caught the virus and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination. If you have any of the symptoms of coronavirus, stay at home and arrange to have a test. If you need more information on coronavirus symptoms, check nhs.uk
Like any vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine works by teaching your immune system how to create antibodies that protect you from disease. It’s safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the disease.
Vaccines offer important protection to reduce risk, but they don’t make you invincible. Protection from any vaccine takes time to build up. In general, the older you are the longer it takes.
It will take at least two weeks in younger people and at least three weeks in older people before you can expect to have a good antibody response. Even better protection then comes from the second and third doses, so it’s really important that everyone gets all their vaccinations.
You will be contacted to arrange a date for your second and booster appointments unless you have already booked via the national booking system.
For more information, visit nhs.uk/covidvaccine
COVID-19 is more serious in older people and those with a weakened immune system. Protection from the vaccine may be lower and may decline more quickly in these people. For this reason, people aged 75 years and over, those in care homes and those aged 12 years and over with a weakened immune system are being offered the spring booster.
JCVI’s advice is that people should wait until around six months since their last dose for maximum effectiveness, and people are asked to wait until they are invited by the NHS to book. People should wait to be contacted by the NHS. The NHS will begin inviting people from the week beginning 21st March and will offer a top-up dose to all who are eligible during Spring and early Summer.
If you have received one, two or three doses of a vaccine abroad they still count towards the total number of doses you are eligible for. This is the case whether they are types of vaccines being used in this country or not.
If you are aged 18 and over and have received a first (or second) dose of COVID-19 vaccine overseas that is also available in the UK, you should receive the same type of vaccine for your second and/or booster dose.
You can see the latest sessions taking place near you and the types of vaccines available.
If you are aged 18 and over and have received a first (or second) dose of COVID-19 vaccine overseas that is not available in the UK, please speak to the vaccination teams at a session and you will be offered a second (or booster) dose of the closest vaccine type to the one you have received. Please use the link about to see the nearest sessions for you. The national booking system cannot book an appointment in these circumstances.
If you have had three vaccinations elsewhere that are not approved here, these still count and you do not need any further doses.
Currently vaccines received abroad are not displayed on the NHS App and therefore will not provide a COVID PASS.
Vaccines received abroad can be entered onto GP practice systems by your GP practice teams in the vaccination field or the ‘short term medication’ field.
If you’re not sure about an article, story or advice that you’ve seen or been given, there are ways to check it out. The government’s SHARE checklist helps spot misleading news or content.
Independent fact-checking organisations such as Full Fact also challenge and investigate false or misleading claims.