Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Since the first Covid-19 vaccine was approved in December 2020, there has been great excitement amongst our community. We understand there are many questions and we have answered some of the questions that we are asked the most on this page.

Please review the information on this page, our information hub and the NHS website before contacting us.

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus. At this time, the vaccine is being offered to:

  • residents in a care home and their carers
  • all those 65 years of age and over
  • clinically extremely vulnerable individuals over 16 years
  • individuals with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality over 16 years
  • frontline health and social care workers.

The vaccine will be offered more widely, and at other locations, as soon as possible. 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

Why can’t everyone get a COVID-19 vaccine now?

Some people are more likely to be impacted more seriously should they get COVID-19. As such, we are vaccinating people based on their risk level. The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Please don’t contact your GP or hospital to request a vaccination.

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 NHS England. This letter will include all the information a person will need to book appointments, including their NHS number.

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

Is the NHS confident the vaccine is safe?

Yes. The NHS will not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public until experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.  The MHRA, the official UK regulator, has approved three vaccines as being safe and effective, 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.

Are there any known or anticipated 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. You will receive the highest level of protection approximately seven days after your second

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 1–2 days after the vaccine
  • feeling tired
  • headache
  • general aches, or mild flu like symptoms.

As with all vaccines, appropriate treatment and care will be available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following administration.

How is the COVID-19 vaccine given?

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. It is given as two doses, up to 12 weeks apart. When you receive your first dose, you will be advised of your appointment to receive the second dose. It is important that you attend both appointments and get both doses to offer you the most protection against coronavirus.

Are there any groups that shouldn’t have the vaccine?
People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated. Clinicians will discuss this with people before vaccinating them.

What type of allergies would exclude me from a Covid-19 vaccination?

There is detailed information available about each of the approved vaccines on the NHS Covid-19 vaccine website.

Please review the information specifically about allergies. If you are still unsure, please speak to your health care provider.

Is the vaccine suitable for people who are experiencing long Covid symptoms? (eg loss of smell/taste)

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, including those who have mild residual symptoms. Where people are suffering significant ongoing complications from Covid they should discuss whether or not to have a vaccine now with a clinician.

There is detailed information available about each of the approved vaccines on the NHS Covid-19 vaccine website.  

What effects do the vaccines have on fertility, pregnant women and women who are 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. This comprehensive guidance is available in a number of languages.

There is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibody to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems after Covid-19 disease.

Why is it important to get your COVID-19 vaccination?

The COVID-19 vaccination is the easiest way to get a high level of protection from the effects of this coronavirus.

As more and more people are vaccinated, this should help reduce the rates of serious illness and save lives, therefore reducing pressure on the NHS and social care services.

How long does the vaccine take to become effective?

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of your suffering from COVID-19 disease. You may not be protected until at least seven days after your second dose of the vaccine.

How are vaccines being delivered in NCL?

We are providing the vaccine in a number of ways.

  1. Local vaccine services – smaller scale sites provided by GPs and pharmacies within local communities.
  2. Vaccination centres – large scale sites convenient for transport networks that support high volumes in a fixed location for an extended period.
  3. Hospital hubs – located within local hospitals will be clinics run by hospital staff administering vaccines primarily to inpatients, outpatients, NHS and care staff.
  4. Roving vaccination teams – comprising vehicles that can deploy vaccinators, vaccine and supplies on an outreach basis, for those housebound or in care settings, such as care homes.

What vaccine for COVID-19 is 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.

Can I still attend my appointment during the national lockdown?
Yes. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine, is an important medical appointment and so is within the rules wherever you live. Vaccinations will continue as normal in all areas through the national lockdown.

How many doses of the vaccine will be required and when?    

You are required to have two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, up to 12 weeks apart. You should have some protection from the virus after the first dose but will receive the highest level of protection approximately seven days after your second dose of vaccine.

What are the ways I might be contacted about vaccination?

When it is the right time people will be contacted to make their appointments. For most people they will receive a letter either from their GP or the national booking system; this will include all the information they need, including their NHS number. Some services are currently also phoning and texting patients to invite them in.

How do I book an appointment with a large site (e.g. Excel) / local NCL vaccination centre/ local pharmacy?    

As long as you are registered with a GP and have an NHS number, you will be able to use the national booking service to book a vaccination. The national booking service will only accept bookings for those people in the priority groups being vaccinated at that time. You can access the booking service here.

I am in one of the priority groups but I’ve not been called for a vaccine – who should I contact?

The NHS is focussing every effort on reaching everyone who needs the vaccine as quickly as possible, and a GP will be in touch as soon as it is possible to make an appointment.

People aged 65 and over or clinically extremely vulnerable who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID can now contact the NHS to arrange a jab. You can book a vaccination here.

If you are not in one of the priority groups, please do not contact the NHS at this stage to ask about your vaccination date.

I’m not registered with a GP, how will I get my vaccine?

All those currently residing in the UK are encouraged to register with a GP if they require primary medical services. Anyone can register with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status. You can find details of how to register here.

I’m registered with a GP in a different area to where I live, how will I get my vaccine?

As long as you are registered with a GP and have an NHS number, you will be able to use the national booking service to book a vaccination. The national booking service will only accept bookings for those people in the priority groups being vaccinated at that time. You can access the booking service here.

I am housebound – how will I be vaccinated?

In North Central London, we have roving teams of vaccinators who are visiting high priority residents who are housebound or living in care settings on an outreach basis to provide their vaccinations. These roving NHS vaccination teams are working closely with local GPs, community services and local councils. Colleagues in our roving vaccination teams are working extremely hard and as fast as possible to reach residents confined to their home, including in sheltered accommodation.

Can I choose which vaccine I get?

No. 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.

You can find out more about each of the approved vaccines here.

How are you ensuring vaccine doses are not wasted?  

Our local vaccination sites have plans and protocols in place to ensure all vaccines are used within the designated timeframe.

Do people who have already had COVID-19 still need to get vaccinated?       

Yes, they should get vaccinated. 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, so people who have had COVID-19 (whether confirmed or suspected) can still receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is their time to do so.

I’ve been called for my vaccine and presently have COVID-19. What should I do?

People currently unwell and experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine until they have recovered. Please inform your GP that you are unwell, and a new appointment will be made for you to be vaccinated once you are well.

How will I know that an invitation email / text to get a vaccine isn’t a hoax?

The Covid-19 vaccine will always be free on the NHS. Our staff will never ask for, or accept, cash for vaccines, never ask for your banking details or identity documents, and will never come around to your house unannounced. If any of these situations occur, it is likely the invitation is indeed a hoax.

The NHS is working closely with law enforcement and security agencies to try and prevent residents being approached by such hoaxes. If you have any concerns about an invitation being a hoax, we would encourage you to contact your healthcare provider to confirm its accuracy.

Who can get at COVID-19 vaccine?

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus. At this time, the vaccine is being offered to:

  • residents in a care home and their carers
  • all those 65 years of age and over
  • clinically extremely vulnerable individuals over 16 years
  • individuals with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality over 16 years
  • frontline health and social care workers.

The vaccine will be offered more widely, and at other locations, as soon as possible. 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

How long will I have to wait if I am in a priority group?           

There are lots of ways that local people who are priority for vaccination can get their vaccine, and we are expanding the number of vaccination facilities all the time, to include more GP practices, community pharmacies, and community health venues.

There are also a number large-scale vaccination sites opening across London, and if people are able and willing to travel to these facilities, that is of course an option for them, as health appointments including vaccination are a legitimate reason to leave your home.

Which patients are considered clinically extremely vulnerable?          

There is information available on the GOV.UK website about who is considered clinically extremely vulnerable.

What does frontline healthcare staff mean?        

Frontline healthcare staff includes the following groups:

Staff involved in direct patient care

This includes staff who have frequent face-to-face clinical contact with patients and who are directly involved in patient care in either secondary or primary care/community settings. This includes doctors, dentists, midwives and nurses, paramedics and ambulance drivers, pharmacists, optometrists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and radiographers. It should also include those working in independent, voluntary and non-standard healthcare settings such as hospices, and community-based mental health or addiction services. Temporary staff, including those working in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, students, trainees and volunteers who are working with patients must also be included.

Non-clinical staff in secondary or primary care / community healthcare settings

This includes non-clinical ancillary staff who may have social contact with patients but are not directly involved in patient care. This group includes receptionists, ward clerks, porters and cleaners.

What does frontline social care staff mean?        

The roles within the scope of social care priority are outlined in the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Standard Operating Procedure issued by the NHS which includes direct care, management and support staff including admin and ancillary staff.

Does one dose of the vaccine offer protection?

A single dose of the vaccine does provide a good level of protection from COVID-19, but the second dose is important to ensure lasting protection.

If you haven’t already been given an appointment for your second dose, you will be contacted within 12 weeks of your first dose to confirm the appointment day and time. Your second dose will be given at the same location as your first dose.

Why are you postponing second doses?
The UK Chief Medical Officers have agreed a longer timeframe between first and second doses so that more people can get their first dose quickly, and because the evidence shows that one dose still offers a high level of protection after two weeks.

This decision will allow us to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and will help save lives.

Getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.

What are the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines?

A detailed review of the vaccines and their ingredients have been provided by the MHRA and can be found at the following links.

Information about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available here.

Information about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is available here.

The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community which can be found here.

Does the vaccine contain any meat or animal-derived products?

Neither the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine nor the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine contain any meat derivatives or porcine products. If, and when, further vaccines are approved we will publish information about known allergens or ingredients that are important for certain faiths, cultures and beliefs.

There is detailed information available about each of the approved vaccines on the NHS Covid-19 vaccine website.

I am unable to use products containing alcohol. Can I have the vaccine?

The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine does contain a very small amount of ethanol. The British Islamic Medical Association has published that it recommends eligible individuals in Muslim communities should receive this vaccine.

They say: “It does contain ethanol as an excipient, but at 0.002mg per dose this is much less than found in a slice of bread or a banana for example”.

I have had my flu vaccine, do I need the COVID-19 vaccine as well?

The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both, but normally separated by at least a week.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine protect me from flu?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu. If you have been offered a flu vaccine, please try to have this as soon as possible to help protect you, your family and patients from flu this winter.

Do I need to leave a space between having the flu vaccine and having
the Covid vaccine?

It is not essential to leave time between the flu and Covid vaccine but it is recommended that 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.

Am I able to have the Covid-19 vaccine if I am receiving other vaccines? (eg Hep B / HPV)

There is detailed information available about each of the approved vaccines on the NHS Covid-19 vaccine website.

Please review the information specifically about allergies. If you are still unsure, please speak to your health care provider.