COVID-19 Vaccination Frequently Asked Questions

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is safe and effective. It gives you the best protection against coronavirus.

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.

It’s currently being given to:

  • people aged 70 and over
  • some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • front line health and social care workers

The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Read the latest JCVI advice on priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK

I am not in one of the listed groups above, why do I have to wait?

This is the biggest vaccination programme in UK history, which means it will take time to vaccinate all the eligible people.

The COVID-19 vaccines will become available as they are approved for use and as each batch is manufactured. So every dose is needed to protect those at highest risk.

You will be called in order of JCVI priority groups (as above) as soon as there is enough vaccine available. Some people who are housebound or live in a care home and who can’t get to a local vaccination centre may have to wait for the supply of the right type of vaccine. This is because only some vaccines can be transported between people’s homes.

What counts as a frontline social care worker?

The government has said:

“All frontline social care workers directly working with people clinically vulnerable to COIVD-19 who need care and support irrespective of where they work (for example in people’s own homes, day centres, care homes for working age adults or supported housing); whether they care for clinically vulnerable adults or children; or who they are employed by (for example local government, NHS private sector or third sector employees).”

When will unpaid carers be vaccinated?

In terms of JCVI and unpaid carers, the guidance says “other groups at higher risk, including those who receive a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill, should also be offered vaccination alongside those aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions”

This means that unpaid carers will be invited alongside JCVI priority group 6 which will hopefully be in the near future.

Is it a live vaccine? Can I have it if my immune system is suppressed?

The vaccines do not contain living organisms and are safe for people with disorders of the immune system, or who are taking immuno-suppressive medications.

Who cannot have the vaccine?

You should not have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, or a previous dose of the same vaccine

People who are suffering from a fever-type illness should also postpone having the vaccine until they have recovered

How is the COVID-19 vaccine given?

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. It’s given as 2 doses. You will have the 2nd dose 3 to 12 weeks after having the 1st dose.

How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?

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 coronavirus 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.

So far, thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.

How long does the vaccine take to become effective?

The MHRA have said these vaccines are highly effective. It takes about 2-3 weeks for the first dose of the vaccine to start having some effect, 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 Oxford/AstraZeneca 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.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe

We don’t yet know whether it will stop people from catching and passing on the virus, but we do expect it to reduce this risk. So, it is still important that people continue to follow social distancing rules for the time being.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection.

There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine. This means it is important to:

  • continue to follow social distancing guidance
  • if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to stay away from other people

What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose.

Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the second dose will give you the best protection against the virus.

Very common side effects include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
  • feeling tired
  • headache
  • general aches, or mild flu like symptoms

Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.

These symptoms normally last less than a week, and it is fine to take painkillers such as paracetamol if you need to. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, call NHS 111. If you do seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination so that they can assess you properly.

Can you catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No you cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine, nor will it cause a positive test, but it is possible to have caught COVID-19 and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment.

The most important symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of any of the following:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

Although a mild fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test. Further information on symptoms is available on NHS.UK.

Allergic reactions

Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction.

You should not have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to:

  • a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine

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 treat them immediately.

Is the vaccine suitable for Muslims, Jewish people and vegans?

Yes, the approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg, including gelatine. 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:

Advice if you’re of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant. But more evidence is needed before you can routinely be offered it. The JCVI has updated its advice to recommend you may be able to have the vaccine if you’re pregnant and:

  • at high risk of getting coronavirus because of where you work
  • have a health condition that means you’re at high risk of serious complications of coronavirus

You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

You can have the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re breastfeeding.

Read the latest COVID-19 vaccine advice if you’re 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

Can people pick which vaccine they have? 

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.

The manufacturer of the vaccine you receive largely depends on which is available on the day of your appointment. Stock of vaccine varies as different manufacturers’ vaccines are delivered on different schedules

Should people who have already had Coronavirus get vaccinated? 

Yes, if they are in a priority group identified by JCVI. The MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19 as it is for those who haven’t. But you should delay your COVID-19 vaccine appointment if you have had a positive test in the past 28 days.

Do I need to leave a space between having the flu vaccine and having the COVID-19 vaccine?

It is not essential to leave time between the flu and COVID-19 vaccines but it is recommended that ideally there should be a gap of a week. We would always encourage anyone who is eligible but not yet taken up their flu jab to do so as soon as possible.

How can I volunteer to help the vaccination centre?

As more and more vaccination centres are up and running there is a need for help from the local community. At present, the majority of vaccination sites urgently need volunteer marshals to safely direct patients on site when they arrive, receive their vaccination and exit, along with supporting car park traffic and handing out PPE and information. If you can offer your time to support the marshalling of the centres, please do consider signing up.

For more information, including details on signing up to be a Volunteer Marshall, please visit