Covid-19 vaccine


Getting vaccinated and getting a booster dose are the most important measures you can take to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

COVID-19 vaccines are free of charge and only available through the NHS. Beware of scams – text messages from the NHS will show ‘NHS vaccine’ as the sender, will only link to the NHS website, will never ask for bank account, card details, PINs or passwords, or ask you to press a button on your keypad.

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Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Currently, only certain people are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. If you are identified as being in one of these cohorts of eligible people, you will be contacted by the NHS and offered the vaccine.

  • Anyone aged 6 months to 64 who is at risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • Pregnant women
  • Residents in care homes for older adults
  • All adults over the age of 65
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • Anyone aged 12 to 64 who are household contacts with someone who is immunosuppressed
  • Carers and staff working in care homes for adults

Check the NHS website for details and updates on who can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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How to book a COVID-19 vaccination

  • Book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment online through the National Booking Service (NBS) or by calling 119 free of charge 7am-11pm (you can ask to speak to a translator)
  • Wait to be contacted by your GP surgery and book through them.

If you have difficulties communicating or hearing or are a British Sign Language (BSL) user, you can use text phone 18001 119 or the NHS 119 BSL interpreter service.

Check the NHS website for details and updates on how to book a COVID-19 vaccination.

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Which vaccine I will receive?

There are four COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK: Moderna (Spikevax), Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty), Novavax (Nuvaxovid), and Sanofi & GSK (VidPrevtyn Beta). You cannot usually choose which vaccine you have but when you book, you'll only be offered vaccines that are suitable for you.

All UK approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and most people can have any of them. You should have the same vaccine for both doses unless you had a serious allergic reaction after your 1st dose.

Some people are only offered certain vaccines, for example:

  • if you're pregnant or under 40 you'll usually be offered Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna
  • if you're under 18, you'll only be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech

Following growing evidence on the risks of COVID-19 infection for certain groups and safety of the vaccines, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is calling on all pregnant women in particular to get vaccinated.

If you are concerned about the risk of blood clots after a COVID-19 vaccine, please see the leaflet COVID-19 vaccination and blood clotting (PDF) that has been produced by Public Health England and the NHS.

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What to do after you have been vaccinated?

Research has shown that all UK approved COVID-19 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

However, no vaccine is 100% effective. Please continue to follow all the safety guidance even when you’ve had the vaccine as you may still be able to get and spread COVID.

This is what you can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to your loved ones and community:

  • Keep respiratory hygiene and hand cleaning habits
  • Increase ventilation of indoors spaces by opening windows wherever possible
  • Get tested if you show symptoms, even if they are mild

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How do the vaccines work?

Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines teach your body to fight the virus.

The vaccines work by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection. The protein stimulates the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection.

The components of the vaccine leave the body within a few days. The vaccines will not alter your DNA or genetic material.

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Do the vaccines include any ingredients of animal or foetal origin?

The Sanofi and GSK (VidPrevtyn Beta) COVID-19 vaccine contains an oil derived from sharks.

The other COVID-19 vaccines offered by the NHS do not contain animal products, including egg.

Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK, including their ingredients:

Read the guide to the use of human and animal products in vaccine on GOV.UK

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Are the vaccines safe?

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

They have been approved by an independent body (The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), which follows international standards of safety, and have gone through all the same clinical trials and safety checks that all other licensed medicines have to complete before they can be used.

The vaccines have been thoroughly tested and no safety concerns were seen in studies of more than 20,000 people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds. So far, millions of people have had a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or clotting problems, have been very rare.

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Are the vaccines safe for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities?

The trials demonstrated that the vaccines are consistently safe and effective across different ethnic groups.

Full details are available in the Public Assessment Reports, which contain all the scientific information about the trials and information on trial participants. These can be found at:

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How were the vaccines developed so quickly?

The main reason that the vaccines were developed so quickly is that finding a vaccine for COVID-19 was a worldwide priority. Funding was made available very quickly and scientists across the world have worked together to develop the vaccines, which has meant they were able to complete years of work in months.

Similarly, thousands of people across the world volunteered to take part in the clinical trials, whereas it usually takes a long time to find enough volunteers for a vaccine trial.

The other factor was that all the different bodies involved in checking the safety of the vaccines worked together so this could happen as quickly as possible and sped up the administrative processes, which can often take several years. For example, usually the different phases of the clinical trials take place one after another but for the covid-19 vaccine, some of them ran at the same time to speed up the process.

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Can the vaccines make you ill?

You can't get COVID-19 from having the vaccine. As with flu, it is possible to have caught COVID-19 and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment but the vaccine cannot give you the virus.

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Are there any side effects?

Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects in some people. Most of these are mild and short term, and not everyone gets them. 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

These tend to happen in the first couple of days after the vaccination and last a few days. You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help you feel better. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, call NHS 111 or your GP practice.

You should call 111 immediately if you get any of these symptoms starting from around 4 days to 4 weeks after being vaccinated:

  • a severe headache that is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse
  • a headache that feels worse when you lie down or bend over
  • a headache that's unusual for you and occurs with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures (fits)
  • a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain

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Can the vaccines affect your fertility?

Medical experts agree that it is not possible for the vaccines to affect fertility. Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines teach your body to fight the disease. They do not have any ingredients that would affect fertility and the components leave the body within a few days.

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Can I have the vaccine during Ramadan/does the vaccine invalidate fasting?

The British Islamic Medical Association have issued specific advice urging Muslims observing Ramadan not to delay getting the vaccine, drawing on analysis from Islamic scholars which says that injections for non-nutritional purposes do not invalidate the fast.

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Are there any people who shouldn't have the vaccine?

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 or any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Clinicians will discuss this with people before vaccinating them.

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Can I have the vaccine if I'm pregnant?

The Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations 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 fact, there is growing evidence that pregnant women are at increased risk of serious consequences from COVID-19 and should be considered a clinical risk group within the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

It is preferable for pregnant women to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine where available because they've been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and no safety concerns have been identified. There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women but more research is needed.

You should speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination to discuss the benefits and risks with you. You should also read the COVID-19 leaflet for childbearing, pregnant or breastfeeding women.

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Can I have the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

The Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations has recommended that the vaccines can be given to women who are breastfeeding as there are no known risks to them or their baby. This is in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation.

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Is it safe to try to get pregnant after having the vaccine?

Yes. There is no need for women to delay pregnancy after having the vaccination.

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How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?

The vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at stopping people from becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19, and also at reducing the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but the symptoms should be a lot less severe.

Having the vaccine prevents you becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 but you may still be able to spread it to others so it is very important to keep following the guidance – in particular, wearing a mask, washing your hands and keeping two metres apart.

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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, so we are continuing to vaccinate people as normal.

Scientists are looking now in detail at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. Viruses, such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective.

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How long do the vaccines take to work?

Protection starts around seven days after your first dose. To get the maximum amount of protection, people need to have their second dose and, in some cases, a booster dose. Full protection takes effect around a week or two after the second dose.

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How long will my vaccine be effective for?

We expect these vaccines to work for at least a year – if not longer - but this will be constantly monitored.

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Is one vaccine better than the other?

All the approved vaccines have been shown to be safe and highly effective. No trials have been carried out to compare the vaccines: the important thing is that they will all protect you from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

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What if I have an allergic reaction?

The vaccines are safe and effective for the vast majority of people – they have been tested on tens of thousands of people and assessed by experts.

Anyone with a history of a severe allergy to any of the ingredients or who has had an allergic reaction to the same vaccine before should not have the vaccine. Everybody will be screened for potential allergic reactions before getting vaccinated. 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, and all centres will be equipped to care for people who need it – just like with any other vaccine.

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I'm housebound, how will I get my vaccination?

Your GP practice will make arrangements for you to have your vaccination at home and contact you when it is your turn.

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Can people get a vaccine without their NHS number or if they aren’t registered with a GP?

While the NHS can only contact people for whom we have GP records, people who don’t have an NHS number or aren’t registered with a GP will still be able to get vaccinated.

It does however help to be registered with a GP – as well as being invited for COVID-19 vaccinations, being registered also means you will be invited for other vaccinations and important health checks including for cancer or heart disease. Details of how to register with a GP are available at:

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Can I get a vaccine privately?

No. Vaccinations are only available through the NHS and are free of charge. If anyone claims to be able to provide you with a vaccine for a fee, they are likely to be committing a crime and should be reported to the Police online or by calling 101.


  • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
  • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
  • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
  • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

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I'm currently ill with COVID-19, can I get the vaccine?

If you have COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms you should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine until you have recovered. The guidance says this should be at least four weeks after the start of symptoms or from the date of a positive COVID-19 test.

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Should people who have already had Covid or are suffering from 'Long Covid' get vaccinated?

Yes, getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had COVID-19 as it is for those who haven’t, including people 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.

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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 so you need to have both.

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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-19 vaccine. If you are offered both vaccines, it's safe to have them at the same time. The NHS always encourages anyone who is eligible for a flu jab to have it as soon as possible.

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