What is the COVID-19 vaccine and how do I get it?

Take a look at what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccination programme, including where to go and why it's important.
A close of of a black persons arm as hands wearing blue latex gloves give them an injection

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most people who catch COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without needing special treatment.

However, some people get seriously ill and need medical attention. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems are more likely to develop serious illness.

Prevent the spread of COVID-19

The best way to prevent and slow down the spread of COVID-19 transmission is to be well-informed about the disease and how the virus spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by:

  • Keeping your distance from others, one metre where possible
  • Wearing a properly fitted mask in public spaces, e.g. public transport
  • Practicing good respiratory etiquette by covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Washing your hands regularly with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds
  • Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser frequently
  • Getting vaccinated when you can

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The following groups are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine booster:

  • Residents and staff in care homes for older adults
  • All adults aged 65 years and over
  • People aged 6 months to 64 years who are clinically vulnerable
  • Frontline health and social care staff
  • People aged 12 to 64 years who are close contacts of at-risk individuals
  • People aged 16 to 64 years who are carers for older adults

Your COVID-19 booster can be given with the flu jab. 

Book online

    Where can I get the COVID-19 booster?

    Most people will be invited to book an appointment at a larger vaccination centre, pharmacy, or local NHS service such as a GP surgery.

    Your GP surgery will contact you when you're eligible for your booster shot. Please don't contact them first.

    Find out more about booster vaccinations

    How and when to get your COVID-19 booster vaccine?

    You'll be offered the booster at least three months after your second dose.

    Most people will be invited to book an appointment at a larger vaccination centre, pharmacy, or local NHS service such as a GP surgery.

    Your GP surgery will contact you when you are eligible for your booster shot. Please do not contact them first.

    Find out more about booster vaccinations

    Which COVID-19 vaccine will I get?

    Most people will be offered a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine.

    This means your booster dose may be different from the vaccines you had for your first and second doses.

    Some people may be offered a booster dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they can't have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

    Are there any side effects?

    Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and only some get them. You should not have the vaccine if you've ever had a severe allergic reaction to:

    • Any of the ingredients in the vaccine
    • A previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine

    Severe allergic reactions are rare. If you do react to the vaccine, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine have training to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

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

    No specific safety concerns concerning pregnancy have been identified with any brand of COVID-19 vaccines. 

    Pregnant women in the UK should be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. 

    I've had COVID-19. Do I still need to get a booster?

    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 the disease. 

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

    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 and treating the diseases. 

    Are vaccines safe?

    Vaccines are now safer than ever before. Any vaccine has to go through a rigorous testing and development process, and comply with strict standards for safety, quality and effectiveness.

    Need more information?

    If you have more questions about the COVID-19 vaccination programme or want more information about the vaccine, check out these useful resources: 

    A light blue background with an open email icon

    Need more advice?

    Get the latest advice and information to help you stay well straight to your inbox

    Sign up now