There has been a change to COVID-19 guidelines
For the latest up-to-date guidance please visit gov.uk
Gov.uk
Gov.uk

Back to top

 

Vaccines explained.

Vaccinations are being offered to some 5 to 11 year olds and everyone over the age of 12. They are free in the UK and everyone above the age of 12 should have 2 doses or more to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why should you get vaccinated?

As restrictions are eased and we learn to live with COVID-19, it is even more important to get vaccinated as vaccines are your best protection against COVID-19. Anyone with COVID-19 can become seriously ill or have long-term effects. Vaccines are the best way to prevent you from getting seriously ill, ensuring you can live a more normal life. Vaccines can:

  • Reduce your risk of getting seriously ill, or dying if you get COVID-19
  • Reduce your risk of catching, or spreading, COVID-19.
  • Reduce the time you may feel unwell if you get COVID-19. Vaccinated people tend to have a milder illness and can get back to normal quicker than those who aren’t vaccinated.
  • Help to protect against COVID-19 variants.
  • Are free to some 5 to 11 year olds and everyone over the age of 12.
  • Vaccines are available everyday – you can find an appointment online or simply go to your local walk-in centre or pop up vaccination clinic.

It’s not too late to get your vaccine.

Vaccination centres are open for everyone, no matter if you are coming for your 1st, 2nd or Booster dose. It’s not too late to get vaccinated.

Book your free vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines explained

There are currently 4 different vaccines approved for use in the UK. They are the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine and the Janssen vaccine.

All 4 vaccines have been tested on thousands of people, both in the UK and around the world and are approved by the independent Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to ensure they meet strict international safety, quality and effectiveness standards.

How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

Who can get the vaccine?

  • ​​Everyone over the age of 12 can get 2 doses of the vaccine
  • Some 5-11 year olds are being offered 
  • People aged 16 and over, and some children aged 12 to 15, can also get a booster dose.

Vaccines in children

Everyone aged 12 and over and some children aged 5-11 are being offered the 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and a second one 12 weeks later. You will be contacted by a local NHS service if your child is eligible to arrange appointments. Boosters are being offered to children aged 16 and over who have had their 2nd dose at least 3 months ago.

Parents or guardians will always be asked for their consent before vaccination of their child can take place. They will get a letter with information about when their children will be offered the vaccine. Most children will be given their vaccine at school if their parent or guardian has consented to it but you can also book your child’s vaccine online.

Find out more

Vaccine safety and Pregnancy

It is safe to have the vaccine at any time during your pregnancy or when trying to conceive, and when breast feeding. 

  • During pregnancy you are more prone to infections. Having the COVID-19 vaccination before/during pregnancy is essential to protect both you and your baby.
  • If you catch COVID-19 while you are pregnant, it may increase your chance of premature birth, preeclampsia and stillbirth – having the vaccine will protect you and your baby from the serious effects of COVID-19.
  • The vaccine is safe for pregnant women and your best defence against the serious effects COVID-19 can have for both you and your baby.
  • You can attend your local vaccination centre to have your questions answered about getting the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • The vaccine programme offered to women is 2 doses and a booster – with at least 8 weeks between 1st and 2nd dose and at least 3 months between 2nd dose and booster. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are offered during pregnancy.

How to get your vaccine

It’s not too late to book your vaccine. There are a few ways you can get vaccinated.

Book online

You can book an appointment anytime online.

Local walk-in centre

If you are aged 16 or over, you can walk in without an appointment. You do not need to be registered with a GP or bring any ID.

Book with your doctor

You need to be registered with a GP surgery in England to use this service. You can register with a GP if you do not have one.

What happens when you get vaccinated?

Your time at a vaccine centre should last no more than 30 to 45 minutes. You shouldn’t attend a vaccine appointment if you’re self-isolating, waiting for a COVID-19 PCR test or within 4 weeks of having a positive COVID-19 test.
  1. Talk through your medical history

    You’ll be asked some questions about your medical history, to make sure that you are not one of the small number of people who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons.

  2. Receive the vaccine

    You’ll then receive a vaccine injection into your upper arm (you can choose which arm). It feels like a small pin prick which lasts 1-2 seconds.

  3. Rest. Sit for 15 minutes

    You will likely be asked to wait for 15 minutes after having the vaccination. You’ll also be given a leaflet about what to expect after your vaccination to take home with you.

Booster vaccines

Booster vaccines are being offered to give people longer protection against getting seriously ill from COVID-19 and are being rolled out to people who had their 2nd dose of vaccine at least 3 months ago. You can book your booster here. This is currently for:
  • People aged 16 and over
  • People who live and work in care homes
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • People aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections
  • People aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 and who are a main carer for someone at high risk from COVID-19

Common
side effects

All medications can cause side effects and there are a few common side effects for all COVID-19 vaccines that some people will get. These usually last less than a week. If they get worse, or you’re concerned, call NHS 111. Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines side effects and safety. Side effects might include

Painful arm

Feeling tired

Headache

General aches

Mild flu-like symptoms

Call 111 if symptoms get worse or you are worried

Fact

Most people in the UK who have been offered a vaccine have had it. Over 52 million people have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 48 million have had their second dose and 38 million have had their booster.

Figures correct as of 24th February 2022 – Gov.uk

Vaccine
FAQ

We have collated some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines. If you can’t see your question here, contact us.

Question

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines train your immune system using a harmless form of the virus. The vaccine activates your immune response.

What does fully vaccinated mean?

Everyone above the age of 18 should have at least 2 doses and a booster to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

What is herd immunity?

Infectious diseases are often easily passed from person to person and entire communities can rapidly become infected. If a high enough proportion of a community is protected by vaccination, it makes it difficult for the disease to spread because the number of people who can be infected is so small.

What are COVID-19 vaccines made of?

  • Active ingredient: A very small amount of a harmless form of the bacteria or virus you are immunising against.
  • Preservatives and stabilisers: Maintain vaccine quality, safe storage and prevent contamination. 
  • Residual traces of substances that have been used during vaccine manufacture, measured as parts per million or billion in the final vaccine.
  • Water: The main ingredient.

Are there animal products in vaccines for COVID-19?

No. The current COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK do not contain animal products.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccines?

No.

I currently have COVID-19, when can I get the vaccine?

You should not receive the vaccine until you have recovered from COVID-19.

I have Long COVID, can I get the vaccine?

Long COVID is often used to describe the long-term effects of COVID-19, where some people have symptoms for weeks or months after the infection has been cleared. Those suffering with long COVID can receive the COVID-19 vaccine and would benefit from vaccination to reduce their risk of further infection.

Do I need two doses of the vaccine and when should I receive them?

Yes, two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines are needed to provide the best, longest-lasting protection against COVID-19.

Why are there lots of different types of COVID-19 vaccines?

Different vaccines for COVID-19 are essential to control the pandemic as to vaccinate all the world’s population, billions of doses need to be produced. This will be more likely to be achieved through developing multiple COVID-19 vaccines.

How do I know vaccines for COVID-19 are safe?

Before any vaccine can be given to the population it must go through rigorous testing. Like all medicines, vaccines undergo extensive clinical trials, where they are administered and monitored in groups of volunteers. In the UK, the results of the trials are then assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Has the speed of developing vaccines for COVID-19 compromised safety?

No. All the standard safety procedures have been followed during clinical trials on vaccines for COVID-19 and the rigorous regulatory processes have been fully completed as for any other vaccine or medicine.

Do the vaccines for COVID-19 affect fertility?

There is no evidence that the vaccines for COVID-19 harm fertility or reduce the chances of becoming pregnant. Although clinical trial participants were asked to avoid becoming pregnant, 57 pregnancies occurred across the trials of the three vaccines that have so far been approved in the UK.

Can I have the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same time?

Many people who are able to have the flu vaccine are also able to have the COVID-19 booster vaccine. If you are offered both vaccines it is safe to have them at the same time.

The flu vaccine is offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of getting seriously ill from flu.The best time to have it is in the autumn or early winter before flu starts spreading.

The flu vaccine is important because:

  • More people are likely to get flu this winter as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • If you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, you’re more likely to be seriously ill
  • Getting vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 will provide protection for you and those around you for both these serious illnesses

If you’ve had COVID-19, it’s safe to have the flu vaccine. It will still be effective at helping to prevent flu.

Why do I need booster doses?

Over time protection from the vaccination begins to lessen, a booster dose helps to improve the protection you have from your first 2 doses. The booster dose helps give you longer-term protection against getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

Will the vaccine make me too ill to go to work?

Like all medicines, the COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects, but not everyone gets them and most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm from the injection
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

You can take painkillers such as paracetamol if you need to.

Useful links

For more information on the COVID-19 Vaccines including videos and other resources.

Book your free COVID-19 Vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine explainer videos produced by UK Health Security Agency (formally Public Health England)
British Sign Language (BSL) COVID-19 vaccine videos.
A guide to the COVID-19 vaccination programme