The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is safe and effective. It gives you the best protection against COVID-19.
Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine
The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk.
In England, the COVID-19 vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at local centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres. More centres are opening all the time.
It's being given to:
- people aged 38 and over
- people who will turn 38 before 1 July 2021
- people at high risk from COVID-19 (clinically extremely vulnerable)
- people who live or work in care homes
- health and social care workers
- people with a condition that puts them at higher risk (clinically vulnerable)
- people with a learning disability
- people who are a main carer for someone at high risk from COVID-19
Find out more about who can get a COVID-19 vaccine
The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
If you are not eligible yet
Wait to be contacted. The NHS will let you know when it's your turn to have the COVID-19 vaccine. It's important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.
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. You will have the 2nd dose 3 to 12 weeks after having the 1st dose.
You will have 2 doses of the same vaccine.
How to get the COVID-19 vaccine
You can book your vaccination appointments online if any of the following apply:
- you're aged 38 or over
- you'll turn 38 before 1 July 2021
- you're at high risk from COVID-19 (clinically extremely vulnerable)
- you have a condition that puts you at higher risk (clinically vulnerable)
- you have a learning disability
- you're a frontline health or social care worker
- you get a Carer's Allowance, get support following an assessment by your local authority or your GP record shows you are a carer
You can book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or a pharmacy that provides COVID-19 vaccinations.
You do not need to wait to be contacted by the NHS.
If you cannot book online, you can call 119 free of charge. You can speak to a translator if you need to.
If you have difficulties communicating or hearing, or are a British Sign Language (BSL) user, you can use textphone 18001 119 or the NHS 119 BSL interpreter service.
How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from COVID-19 from 3 or 4 weeks after you've had it.
But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection.
There is a chance you might still get or spread COVID-19 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
How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Any COVID-19 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, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or clotting problems, have been very rare.
To find out more about the vaccines approved in the UK, see:
- GOV.UK: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 approved by MHRA
- GOV.UK: Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 approved by MHRA
- GOV.UK: Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 approved by MHRA
Read more about why vaccines are safe and important, including how they work and what they contain.
Video: how COVID-19 vaccines are developed
This video explains how COVID-19 vaccines are developed quickly but safely.
Media review due: 31 March 2024
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
- feeling or being sick
You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to.
You may get a high temperature or feel hot or shivery 1 or 2 days after having your vaccination.
But if you have a high temperature that lasts longer than 2 days, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste you may have COVID-19. Stay at home and get a test.
If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.
Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction.
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
- any of the ingredients in the 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.
Reports of extremely rare blood clots
The MHRA is carrying out a detailed review of reports of an extremely rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of people who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The problem can also happen in people who have not been vaccinated and it's not yet clear why it affects some people.
The COVID-19 vaccine can help stop you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. For people aged 40 or over and those with other health conditions, the benefits of being vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risk of clotting problems.
For people under 40 without other health conditions, it's currently advised that it's preferable to have another COVID-19 vaccine instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
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
Report a side effect
You can report any suspected side effect using the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Yellow Card safety scheme.
Advice if you're of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding
If you're pregnant, or think you might be, you can have the COVID-19 vaccine. You'll be invited when your age group are offered it or earlier if you have a health condition or reason that means you're eligible.
It's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. This is because they've been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and have not caused any safety issues.
You can book your COVID-19 vaccination online. During the booking process, you’ll be asked if you’re pregnant. This is to make sure you’re offered an appointment for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
At your appointment, you'll be able to discuss the benefits and potential risks of having the vaccine in pregnancy. This is so you can make an informed decision about having it. You can also speak to a GP or your maternity team for advice.
It's recommended you have the same vaccine for both doses.
If you had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for your 1st dose and did not have any serious side effects you should have it for your 2nd dose.
You can also have any of the COVID-19 vaccines if you're breastfeeding. You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine and cannot pass it to your baby through your breast milk.
There's no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant. There's no need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.
The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccine ingredients
The approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg.
- Sign up to be contacted for COVID-19 vaccine research
- YouTube: NHS videos answering common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine
- GOV.UK: COVID-19 vaccination guide for older adults
- GOV.UK: why you have to wait for your COVID-19 vaccine
- GOV.UK: COVID-19 vaccination booking: an appointment letter
- NHS Inform: COVID-19 vaccination in Scotland
- Public Health Wales: COVID-19 vaccination in Wales
- nidirect: COVID-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland
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