COVID-19 vaccine: what you need to know

Take a look at what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccination programme, including how you will know when it's your turn, where to go, and why it's important.

Last updated on 15 September 2021.

To check the latest Government guidance please visit Gov.uk.

We all have an important part to play to help the NHS deliver their vaccine delivery plan:

  • When you are contacted, please book and attend your appointment(s);
  • Turn up to your appointment on time, do not arrive early or late as the vaccination centres cannot accommodate you.

It is essential that everyone continues to follow key COVID-19 precautions, whether they have had the vaccine or not. These include testing when you have symptoms and isolating when you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

For the latest information about the vaccine go to the NHS website.

Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19 vaccine

Here are some FAQs to help you get the information you need to know about the biggest vaccination programme in history. 

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone aged 16 or over and some children aged 12 to 15 who have a higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 or who live with someone at high risk of catching it

If you are aged 18 or over

All those aged 18 or over can book their vaccination through the NHS booking service. You can also call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.

You can also find a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site to get vaccinated without needing an appointment.

If you are aged 16 to 17

If you are aged 16 or 17 years old, you should wait to be contacted by your GP by text or letter to arrange an appointment at your GP.  Some walk-in centres are also offering the vaccine to people aged 16 or 17. You can find a centre near you by visiting the COVID-19 vaccination site.

If you are aged 12 to 15

Children aged 12 to 15 can already get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you live with someone who is more likely to get infections, or you have a condition that means you are at high-risk from COVID-19

The Government has announced that all children aged 12 to 15 in England will now be offered a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Children will be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, delivered through a school-based vaccination programme, the same as for HPV and Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio.

If you receive home schooling, are in secure services, or specialist mental health settings, then provision will be put in place to ensure you are still offered one dose of the vaccine.

Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought before vaccinations are given in line with existing school vaccination programme policies.

Find out how many people have had the COVID-19 vaccine

The NHS publishes a weekly report on vaccination numbers. To find out the latest numbers click the button below.

Find out more

How long between my first and second dose of the vaccine?

You will usually receive your second dose up to 8-12 weeks after the first, regardless of the vaccine type. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection.

How do I book my second dose of the vaccine?

You'll need to book a 2nd dose for 8 to 12 weeks after your 1st dose.

Will I be offered a third dose?

People aged 12 years or older who had a severely weakened immune system at the time they had their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine may be offered a third vaccine dose.

This is because you may not have responded as well as other people and a third dose may help to improve your immune response and give you better protection.

People who may be offered a third dose include those who had or have:

  • blood cancers (such as leukaemia or lymphoma)
  • lowered immunity due to treatment (such as steroid medication, biological therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy)
  • lowered immunity due to inherited disorders of the immune system
  • an organ or bone marrow transplant
  • diseases that affect the immune system such as poorly controlled HIV
  • other diseases or treatments as advised by your specialist

Your GP will be in contact with your specialist and the NHS will let you know if you need a third dose and when and where to have the vaccine. Government guidance is available if you have further questions.

Will I be offered a booster shot?

Boosters are different to the third dose being offered to people with compromised immune systems. 

To maintain high levels of protection throughout the winter months, the Government will offer a booster vaccine to those at more risk from COVID-19. This includes: 

  • Those living in residential care homes
  • All adults aged 50 years and over
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • Everyone aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk

You will be offered the booster at least six months after your second dose. 

Are there any side effects?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them.

You should not have the vaccine if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction to:

  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine
  • a previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine

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.

Did you have side effects from the vaccine?

To help the MHRA collect and monitor information in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine, you can report your symptoms.

Report symptoms

I'm pregnant, can I still get the vaccine?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group.

There have been no specific safety concerns identified with any brand of COVID-19 vaccines in relation to pregnancy. 

It is preferable for pregnant women in the UK to be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where available. There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women, but more research is needed.

Women who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, depending on their age and clinical risk group. To find out more visit our maternity support advice and information page.

Protect yourself from fraud

In England, the COVID-19 vaccines will only be available via the NHS. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, a GP surgery or pharmacy local to you, to receive your vaccine.

Remember, the vaccine is free of charge. At no point will you be asked to pay.

  • 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.  

Find out more and report fraud

Do I have to have the COVID-19 vaccine even though I've already had COVID-19?

An effective vaccine is the best way to protect people from COVID-19, reduce hospitalisations and save lives. Vaccines are the only way to eradicate disease. 

People that have already had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated. It is still just as important for those who have already had COVID-19 as it is for those who haven’t.  

Is the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory?

There are no plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine compulsory for the general population. Following consultation earlier this year, from 11 November 2021 people who work in care homes – both staff and volunteers – will need to be fully vaccinated. There are some exemptions and the requirement to be fully vaccinated will not extend to people who are visiting friends and families.

Do I need to self-isolate if I'm fully vaccinated?

If you’re fully vaccinated or under 18, you will not need to self-isolate following close contact with someone who has COVID-19. You’ll still need to take a PCR test and self-isolate if it’s positive. Read the latest guidance to find out when you should self-isolate.

How do I prove my vaccine status?

An NHS COVID Pass shows your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination details or test results. This is your COVID-19 status. You may be asked to show your pass to get into some events, where the COVID Pass is being trialed, or to travel abroad.

A digital COVID pass is available through the NHS App or the NHS website. A paper version is also available online.

What does a vaccine do?

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 a vaccine has trained your immune system to know how to fight a disease, it can often protect you for many years. 

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are now safer than ever before. Any vaccine must first go through the usual rigorous testing and development process and be shown to strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness before it can be deployed.

How do I feedback or complain about the NHS COVID-19 vaccine service?

If you are unhappy with the service you have received, it is important to let the NHS know. To provide feedback, raise a concern or make a complaint, please email  england.contactus@nhs.net

Got a question?

If you have more questions about the COVID-19 vaccination programme you can find more information on the NHS website or contact your local Healthwatch.

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