Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine
The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.
The vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs.
It’s being given to:
- some people aged 80 and over who already have a hospital appointment in the next few weeks
- people who live or work in care homes
- health care workers at high risk
You will also need to be registered with a GP surgery in England. You can register with a GP if you do not have one.
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).
Wait to be contacted
The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. It’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.
Advice if you’re of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding
There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But more evidence is needed before you can be routinely offered the vaccine.
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 serious complications of coronavirus
- if you’re breastfeeding
Speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination. They will discuss the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine with you.
You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.
How the COVID-19 vaccine is given
The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm.
It’s given as 2 doses.
When the 2nd dose will be given
The latest evidence suggests the 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine provides protection for most people for up to 3 months.
As a result of this evidence, when you can have the 2nd dose has changed. This is also to make sure as many people can have the vaccine as possible.
The 2nd dose was previously 21 days after having the 1st dose, but has now changed to 12 weeks after. If you:
- have already had your 1st dose and are due to have your 2nd dose before Monday 4 January, keep your appointment
- have already had your 1st dose and are due to have your 2nd dose after Monday 4 January, the NHS will contact you about when you’ll have your 2nd dose
- are due to have your 1st dose after Wednesday 30 December, you’ll be given your 2nd dose 12 weeks later
How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccines approved for use in the UK have been developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca.
They 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.
Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.
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 effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will give you some protection from coronavirus. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you the best 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
COVID-19 vaccine side effects
Most side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:
- a sore arm where the needle went in
- feeling tired
- a headache
- feeling achy
You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to.
If you have a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection.
If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.
Tell staff before you are vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
You should not have the vaccine if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction to a previous vaccine.
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.
COVID-19 vaccine ingredients
The 2 approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg.