Further COVID-19 FAQs

About the vaccine

Even if you are healthy you should get vaccinated. The vaccine gives you the best protection against COVID-19.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and scientists and healthcare professionals predict that there will be some hard months over the winter when COVID-19 and the flu circulate together. Getting your COVID-19 vaccination, when eligible, is critical to protect yourself and others against serious illness, hospitalisation and death.

Even if you are younger, and usually fit and well, you can still get seriously ill from COVID-19, or get longer lasting symptoms from Long COVID like severe fatigue and loss of smell and taste. Long COVID – where COVID-19 causes symptoms that last weeks or months after the initial infection has gone – can affect both younger and older people. Read more about the symptoms of long-term affects of COVID-19.

Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination. However, research has shown the vaccines help:

  • reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19
  • reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19
  • protect against COVID-19 variants

There is a chance you might still get or spread COVID-19 even if you have a vaccine, so it’s important to follow advice about how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19.

If after vaccination you develop COVID-19 symptoms, stay at home and arrange to have a free PCR test.

Yes, it is possible to get COVID-19 more than once.

You need to wait four weeks (28 days) before booking if you’ve had a positive COVID-19 test, starting from the date you had the test.

COVID-19 vaccines work by triggering an immune response in your body; they instruct your body to produce the immune cells required to fight off COVID-19 if you were to come into contact with it in the future.

Your “primary” vaccine course is given to create this immune response. Although the first dose of a COVID vaccine offers good levels of protection, most people will need to get two doses as part of their primary course to create the necessary defence cells and offer maximum disease protection. For people who are immunosuppressed, a third vaccine may be needed as part of their primary course.

Read more about third primary doses.

A booster vaccine is different, because it is given to increase the protection already created by the primary course. It is common for protection from vaccines to wane over time, and booster doses are used to prolong it. It is really important, if you are eligible, to get your booster dose to ensure you are as protected as possible against COVID-19.

The vaccines do work. They are our main defence against COVID-19, and it is vital that people come forward for their vaccines when they are offered them. Data has shown that the vaccines protect against severe disease, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19. It is common for the protection offered by vaccines to wane over time – booster doses are used to “top-up” the protection given from our first doses of vaccine. These booster doses are safe and effective, and allow the vaccines to continue to protect us against COVID-19.

It is important to get all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine when they are offered to you, to ensure you are as protected as possible.

Even if your next dose is overdue, the offer to have it remains open to you. Please book your next due dose as soon as possible.

The COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccine give you the best possible protection against these life-threatening viruses. If you are offered both vaccines, it’s safe to have them at the same time. A UK study found that administering a flu vaccine at the same time as a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine produced no safety concerns and preserves the immune response to both vaccines. For most people side effects from both vaccines were mild or moderate. 

Where the COVID vaccine and the flu vaccine are given together, you will be informed of the likely timings of potential side effects relating to each vaccine.

Read more about flu vaccine and side effects.

Read more about COVID vaccine and side effects

To check what you need to do to travel abroad, including checking vaccination, testing and quarantine rules, read the Government guidance.

Getting the vaccine

You’ll need to bring:

  • a face covering, unless you cannot wear one for a health or disability reason
  • your booking reference number if you have an appointment.

If you need a carer you can bring them with you on the day.

You’ll be asked some questions about your medical history. It’s important to tell the staff giving you the vaccination if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction. You can also ask any questions you have about the vaccine, its safety or whether it is suitable for you and your individual circumstances. You are not under any obligation to be vaccinated following this conversation if you would prefer not to.

If you decide to go ahead with the vaccine, you will be given an injection into your upper arm.

All places that offer COVID-19 vaccinations will help keep you safe from COVID-19. There will be regular cleaning and social distancing in waiting areas.

You may be asked to wait for 15 minutes after having the vaccination. This is in the unlikely event you have a serious reaction to the vaccine.

Research has found it’s very rare to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine. If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes.

The team are trained to deal with reactions and treat them immediately.

In this film residents in North Central London describe their experience of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

The NHS Vaccine Facts website contains films and testimonials from people in London about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The COVID-19 vaccine is free. Our staff will never ask for, or accept, cash for COVID-19 vaccines, never ask for your banking details or identity documents, and will never come around to your house unannounced.

If you receive a phone call about vaccines that 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.

Vaccine safety and effectiveness

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

Millions of people have had a COVID-19 vaccine and the safety of the vaccines continues to be monitored. Reports of serious side effects are very rare.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines side effects and safety, including information about rare side effects.

Read why vaccination is safe and important

COVID-19 vaccines have to go through several stages of clinical trials before they can be approved for use.

Clinical trials are where a vaccine or medicine is tested on volunteers to make sure it works and is safe.

The approved COVID-19 vaccines have been tested on thousands of people in the UK and around the world, including:

  • people from different ethnic backgrounds
  • people aged between 18 and 84
  • children and young people aged between 12 and 17
  • people with different health conditions

All vaccines used in the UK must be approved by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The MHRA makes sure the vaccines meet strict international standards for safety, quality and effectiveness. Once a vaccine is approved, it’s closely monitored to continue to make sure it is safe and effective.

This video explains how the COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly but safely.

No. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use 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. The mRNA vaccine technology has been studied for several decades for vaccines against Zika, rabies, and influenza. mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines and do not interfere with human DNA. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is kept.

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

Of the overall participants in the phase 3 Pfizer vaccine trial, 58% were White, 26% Hispanic/Latino, 10% Black, 5% Asian and 1% Native American.

Out of the participants in the AstraZeneca vaccine trial, 75.5% were White, 9.8% Black and 3.7% Asian.

Out of the participants in the Moderna vaccine trial, 59.8% were White, 19.7% Hispanic or Latino, 9.7% Black, 4.6% Asian, and 6.2% other.

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

Further information on the vaccine trials can be found here:

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

  • The Muslim Council of Great Britain and the British Islamic Medical Association have advised that eligible individuals in the Muslim community should receive the vaccine.
  • The Hindu Council UK fully supports the COVID-19 vaccination programme and has provided Neasden Temple as a vaccination site.
  • The Sikh Council has urged Sikhs to safeguard themselves against rumours and misinformation and encouraged them to follow government guidelines and advice.
  • The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, issued a video explaining that it is important to have the Covid-19 vaccine to protect yourself and others around you.
  • 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.
  • The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community which can be found here.

If you are unsure whether you should have the COVID-19 vaccination because of your religious beliefs, you can discuss your concerns with your religious leaders and ask their advice.

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain egg or animal products.

The AstraZeneca vaccine contains a tiny amount of alcohol, but this is less than in some everyday foods like bread. The British Islamic Medical Association has issued a statement about the alcohol content of the AstraZeneca vaccine and advises that scholars have deemed the vaccine to be permissible as the amount of ethanol is negligible.

You can find out about the ingredients in the vaccines currently available in the UK:

Women trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination and there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility

You can be vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’re trying for a baby or might get pregnant in the future.

Further information is available on the NHS website and from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. You can download leaflets about having the vaccine during pregnancy in many languages from the gov.uk website.

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are recommended in pregnancy. Vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies, including admission of the woman to intensive care and premature birth of the baby.

Jess, a GP, shares why she had her flu and COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant. 

Further information is available on the NHS website and from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. You can download leaflets about having the vaccine during pregnancy in many languages from the gov.uk website.

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are recommended to breastfeeding women. There is no plausible mechanism by which any vaccine ingredient could pass to your baby through breast milk. You should therefore not stop breastfeeding in order to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Becky, a Consultant Anaesthetist at UCLH, shares why she got the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding

Further information is available on the NHS website and from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. You can download leaflets about having the vaccine during pregnancy in many languages from the gov.uk website.   

Although the vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and the flu, to help control the spread of winter illnesses we should all do things to help reduce the risk of catching the virus or spreading it to other people:

  • meet people outside if possible
  • open doors and windows to let in fresh air if meeting people inside
  • limit the number of people you meet and avoid crowded places
  • wear a face covering when it’s hard to stay away from other people – particularly indoors or in crowded places
  • wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day
  • Encourage unvaccinated loved ones to have their vaccine

Read more about how to avoid catching and spreading winter illnesses

Long COVID

For some people, COVID-19 can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is called long COVID.

The chances of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get COVID-19. People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems.

Common long COVID symptoms include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

Contact your GP if you’re worried about symptoms four weeks or more after having COVID-19.

More about long COVID.

Long COVID can have a huge impact on your life, affecting your work, education, family and social life. However, there are many forms of support available:

  • Your GP may be able to recommend or provide treatment or refer you to a specialist rehabilitation service or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have
  • Your COVID Recovery is a website dedicated to physical, emotional and practical recovery after COVID-19
  • Rethink provides information about how long COVID can affect your mental health, and how to get help
  • Every Mind Matters contains articles with help and advice on all areas of COVID-19, including coping with money worries and job uncertainty.

If you are suffering from long COVID you can get your vaccine. 

However, if you are still under active investigation, or if your condition has recently got worse, you might considering getting it at a later date. This is so any changes in your condition can be correctly attributed to either long COVID or the vaccine. If this situation applies to you, please discuss this with your GP or another healthcare professional who will be able to advise you on whether or not to get the vaccine.

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Read about people in London having the COVID vaccine at NHS Vaccine Facts

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