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?

A strong partnership of councils, NHS organisations, voluntary and community organisations across Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington, is working closely together to deliver the COVID-19 vaccination programme. At present, we are inviting people from the following priority groups (in line with national guidance) to receive their first vaccination dose:

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 JCVI advice on priority groups for phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK (the under 50s).

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

Vaccines teach your immune system how to create antibodies that protect you from diseases.

It’s much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and treating them.

Once your immune system knows how to fight a disease, it can often protect you for many years.

More information on how vaccines work and why they are important is available on the NHS website.

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.

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 independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (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.

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.

The vaccines were trialled in the same way as other medicines and vaccines available in the UK. The COVID-19 vaccine trials involved tens of thousands of people from a range of backgrounds to ensure that they are safe for everyone.

So far, millions 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.

For more information, please see the NHS.uk website.

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.

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to.

Although a mild fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID symptoms (new continuous cough or loss of/change in your normal sense of taste or smell) or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test.

If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111

Further information on side-effects for the vaccines approved for us in the UK can be found on the gov.uk website:

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

What is the latest advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine?
The UK vaccination programme has been very successful, with over 34 million people vaccinated and more than 10,000 lives saved.

Recently there have been reports of an extremely rare but serious condition involving blood clots and unusual bleeding after AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccination. Some people with this condition have suffered life changing effects and some have died. These cases are being carefully reviewed but the risk factors for this condition are not yet clear.

Although this condition remains extremely rare there is a higher risk in people after the first dose of the AZ vaccine. To date and overall, just over 10 people develop this condition for every million doses of AZ vaccine given. This is seen more often in younger people and tends to occur between 4 days and 4 weeks following vaccination.

Similar conditions can also occur naturally, and clotting problems are a common complication of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. An increased risk has not yet been seen after other COVID-19 vaccines in the UK.

On 7 May, the JCVI updated its guidance and now advises that all adults aged 30-39 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.

Adults aged 40 years or older, care home residents and adults of any age with underlying health conditions can still receive any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

The JCVI continues to advise that it is preferable for healthy adults aged 18 to 29 to have a vaccine other than AstraZeneca.

If you have already had a first dose of AZ vaccine without suffering this rare side effect you should complete the course.

For more information on COVID-19 vaccination and blood clotting, please our AstraZeneca vaccine guidance page or the gov.uk website.

(Updated: 13 May 2021)

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.

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

The vaccine ingredients for both vaccines approved in the UK can be found here:

Any ingredients with potential to cause harm, for example, an allergic reaction, are listed even if present in such small amounts.

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 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.  

Can the vaccines alter your genetic material?

There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines alter your genetic material.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine uses mRNA technology. This teaches our cells to make protein that triggers a protective immune response. The mRNA is broken down soon after it enters the body. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is kept.

Further information about the vaccines approved for use in the UK can be found here:

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. The MHRA have said these vaccines are highly effective even with just the first dose, but to get full protection people need to come back for the second dose – this is really important.

Full protection kicks in around a week or two after the second dose. There is a small chance you might still get coronavirus or pass it on even if you have the vaccine.

So even if you have received a vaccine you still need to follow social distancing and other guidance.

What happens if I have my first jab but not my second?

It is important to get both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, as evidence from clinical trials shows this gives people the maximum level of protection.

Although the vaccines give you the majority of your protection from around two weeks after the first dose, it is still really important to get your second booster dose.

Will the vaccines work with the new strains?

There is currently no evidence that the new strains will be resistant to the vaccines we have. Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often develop into new strains, but these new strains rarely make vaccines completely ineffective. This is being continually monitored.

Once I’ve had my vaccine how long will it be effective for?

It is expected that the vaccine will be effective for at least a year. This will continually be monitored.

Can I still pass on Covid-19 to others after having the vaccine?

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

For further information, please see the gov.uk website.

How were these vaccines developed so quickly when it usually takes so long?

The vaccines have been developed and trialled in the same way as other medicines and vaccines available in the UK but there are a number of reasons why they have been developed quickly compared to other medicines.

This includes:

  • The different phases of the vaccine trial were run at the same time, rather than one after the other, which sped up the clinical process.
  • The data from the trials was shared with the MHRA as soon as it was available, rather than waiting until the end.
  • Funding for all of the trials was available at every stage, so there were no delays often caused by seeking funding to continue.
  • Thousands of people were recruited to take part in the clinical trial very quickly, as it was a global effort and many people wanted to volunteer.

Who have the vaccines been trialled on?

Both vaccines approved for use in the UK have been trialled on a variety of people from different backgrounds. This includes men and women of various ages and ethnicities, and those with underlying health conditions.

Further information on the vaccine trials can be found here:

Were the vaccines trialled on different ethnic groups?

Yes, all vaccines that are approved for use in the UK have been trialled on people from a variety of different ethnic groups.

Out of the participants in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial, 82.1% were White, 9.6% were Black or African American, 26.1% were Hispanic/Latino, 4.3% were Asian and 0.7% were Native American/Alaskan native.

Out of the participants in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial, the 75.5% of recipients were White,10.1% were Black and 3.5% were Asian.

Out of the participants in the Moderna vaccine trial, 19.7% were Hispanic or Latino, and 9.7% were African American.

There is no evidence either of the vaccines will work differently in different ethnic groups.

Further information on the vaccine trials can be found here:

Do faith leaders support these vaccinations?

The COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK have been endorsed by numerous faith leaders.

Some examples of support include the British Islamic Medical Association, which has consulted various experts about both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and has advised that eligible, at-risk individuals in the Muslim community should receive the vaccine.

The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has also issued a video explaining that is important to have the Covid-19 vaccine to protect yourself and others around you.

The Sikh Council have urged Sikhs to safeguard themselves against rumours and misinformation and encouraged them to follow government guidelines and advice.

Faith leaders from the Church of England, Anglican, Methodist, Salvation Army, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical and black majority churches have pledged their support to the ‘Give Hope’ campaign which aims to share information about the Covid-19 vaccine and dispel any misinformation.

Where can I get my Covid vaccinations in NCL?

Depending on your circumstances, you can receive your vaccinations in a number of ways:

  1. At a local GP or community pharmacy.
  2. At a vaccination centre – large scale sites convenient for transport networks that support high volumes in a fixed location for an extended period.
  3. At a hospital hub –these are clinics run by hospital staff in local hospitals, administering vaccines primarily to inpatients, outpatients, NHS and care staff.
  4. By a roving vaccination team – teams of  vaccinators that can visit and vaccinate  those who are housebound or living in care settings, such as care homes.

Which COVID-19 vaccines for are 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.

The Moderna vaccine has also been approved for use and is expected to be available by Spring 2021.

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

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.

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 or text message 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 at a vaccination centre or local pharmacy. 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 at: www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or call 119 free of charge, 7am-11pm, 7 days a week.

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.

If you’re in one of the priority groups but haven’t received a letter, you can now book a vaccination  at: www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or call 119 free of charge, 7am-11pm, 7 days a week.

If you are not in one of the priority groups, please do not contact the NHS 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 at: www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Who can get at COVID-19 vaccine?

You can find the latest list of eligible groups on the NHS.uk website.

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 JCVI advice on priority groups for phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK (the under 50s).

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 COVID-19 vaccine deployment programme: Frontline social care workers (JCVI Priority Cohort 2) issued by the NHS. Roles include direct care, management and support staff including admin and ancillary staff.

What effects do the vaccines have on fertility?
There is no need to avoid pregnancy after COVID-19 vaccination. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant.

Is it safe for pregnant women to have the vaccine?
The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines available in the UK have been shown to be effective and to have a good safety profile. These vaccines do not contain live coronavirus and cannot infect a pregnant woman or her unborn baby in the womb.

COVID-19 vaccines offer pregnant women the best protection against COVID-19 disease which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women should be offered COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as people of the same age or risk group. In the USA, around 90,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated mainly with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and no safety concerns have been identified.

Evidence on COVID-19 vaccines is being continuously reviewed by the World Health Organization and the regulatory bodies in the UK, USA, Canada and Europe.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the preferred vaccines for pregnant women of any age who are coming for their first dose.

Anyone who has already started vaccination and is offered a second dose whilst pregnant, should have a second dose with the same vaccine unless they had a serious side effect after the first dose.

Is it safe have the vaccine while breastfeeding?
The JCVI has also recommended that the vaccines can be received whilst breastfeeding. This is in line with recommendations from the USA and the World Health Organization.

Find more information on fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding and the vaccine here or download a leaflet in a range of languages on the gov.uk website.

Information from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

What are the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines?

A detailed review of the three vaccines approved in the UK and their ingredients have been provided by the MHRA and can be found at the following links:

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?

The approved Covid-19 vaccines do not contain any animal, meat or egg products.

The ingredients for all vaccines approved in the UK can be found here:

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.

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

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine does not contain any alcohol. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine contains a very small amount of alcohol (ethanol), which is less than what is found in natural foods or bread. This is not enough to cause any noticeable effects.

The British Islamic Medical Association has published that it recommends eligible individuals in Muslim communities should receive this vaccine.

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.

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.

How many doses of the vaccine do I need?
The COVID-19 vaccine is given as two doses. The first dose of the vaccine offers a high level of protection, but to get maximum and longer-lasting protection, everyone will need to get a second dose.

Getting both doses remains important so we urge people to return for a second dose at the right time.

When will I get my second dose?
Depending on which priority group you fall into, you will have the second dose 3 to 12 weeks after having the first dose.

As part of the government’s plans to tackle rising cases of the B1.617.2 variant of concern first identified in India, second dose appointments have been brought forward from 12 to 8 weeks for those in the top priority groups who have yet to receive their second dose. This includes people who:

  • are aged 40 and over
  • are at high risk from coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable)
  • live or work in care homes
  • are frontline health and social care workers
  • have a condition that puts them at higher risk (clinically vulnerable)
  • are an unpaid carer.

This is to ensure people across the UK have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity.

Those aged under 40 will continue to get their second dose 12 weeks after their first dose.

If you have a second dose appointment, please attend. You do not need to contact the NHS. The NHS will let you know if you need to bring your appointment forward.

Find out more

(Updated: 15 June 2021)

How will I be contacted about my second dose?
Wherever possible, your second dose will be given at the same location as your first dose.

If you received your first dose in a hospital hub or through a GP service, you will be contacted to receive your second dose at the appropriate time. You do not need to contact the NHS unless you are concerned.

If you booked your appointment online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination, you will have booked both your first and second dose appointments at the same time. You can remind yourself of the place and time of your second dose using the ‘manage my appointments’ section on www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination

People who booked their vaccine appointments by ringing 119 will have been given details of their second appointment over the phone. You can call 119 if you have any queries about your booking, or need to change it.

You will be contacted when your second dose of the vaccine is due. Please attend your booked appointment.

Will I have two doses of the same vaccine?
It’s recommended you have the same vaccine for both doses.If you had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for your first dose and did not have any serious side effects, you should have it for your second dose. Speak to your GP or staff at the vaccination centre if you have any questions.

Find out more about the latest AstraZeneca guidance here

What if I want to get my second dose somewhere different?
Wherever possible, your second dose will be given at the same location as your first dose.

However, if you booked your second dose appointment online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by phone on 119 and subsequently booked an appointment with your GP, you will need to cancel your original appointment using the ‘manage my appointments’ section on www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119.

What if I need to reschedule?
If you booked your second dose appointment online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination you can reschedule your appointment using the ‘manage my appointments’ section on www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119.

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