Skip to main content

Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. They give you the best protection against COVID-19.

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine

Everyone aged 5 and over can get a 1st and 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

People aged 16 and over, and some children aged 12 to 15, can also get a booster dose.

People aged 12 and over who had a severely weakened immune system when they had their first 2 doses, will be offered a 3rd dose and a booster (4th dose).

People aged 75 and over, people who live in care homes for older people, and people aged 12 and over who have a weakened immune system, will be offered a spring booster.

Types of COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK are:

  • Moderna vaccine
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • Janssen vaccine (not currently available)
  • Novavax vaccine (not currently available)
  • Valneva vaccine (not currently available)

Which vaccine will I get?

You cannot usually choose which vaccine you have. If you book online, you'll only be offered appointments for vaccines that are suitable for you.

Most people can have any of the COVID-19 vaccines, but some people are only offered certain vaccines.

For example:

  • if you're pregnant or under 40 you'll usually be offered appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines
  • if you're under 18, you'll only be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

You should have the same vaccine for both your 1st and 2nd doses, unless you had serious side effects (such as a serious allergic reaction) after your 1st dose.

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 vaccine you had for your first 2 doses.

How well do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

Anyone who gets COVID-19 can become seriously ill or have long-term effects (long COVID). The COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others.

Research has shown the vaccines help:

  • reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19
  • reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19
  • protect against COVID-19 variants

The 1st dose should give you some protection from 3 or 4 weeks after you've had it. But you need 2 doses for stronger and longer-lasting protection.

Most people also need a booster dose to help improve the protection from the first 2 doses of the vaccine.

There is a chance you might still get or spread COVID-19 even if you have a vaccine, so it's important to follow advice about how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19.

Side effects and safety

The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

They can cause some side effects, but not everyone gets them.

Any side effects are usually 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

More serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or blood clotting, are very rare.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccine side effects and safety

COVID-19 vaccine ingredients

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain egg or animal products.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine contains a tiny amount of alcohol, but this is less than in some everyday foods like bread.

You can find out about the ingredients in the vaccines currently available in the UK:

Page last reviewed: 12 May 2022
Next review due: 28 October 2022