Skip to main content

About COVID-19 vaccination, safety and side effects

COVID-19 vaccines are offered because viruses change and protection fades over time. It's important to top up your protection if you're at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can:

  • help to reduce your risk of getting severe symptoms
  • help you to recover more quickly if you catch COVID-19
  • help to reduce your risk of having to go to hospital or dying from COVID-19
  • protect against different strains of COVID-19

Find out more about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, including if you're eligible and how to get it


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.

Which COVID-19 vaccine will I get?

COVID-19 vaccines in use in the UK have all met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. When they're available, you cannot choose which COVID-19 vaccine you have.

Some people are only offered certain vaccines, for example, if you're under 18 years old.

Children under 12 years old will be given smaller doses than older children and adults.

Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccines used by the NHS:

These vaccine types do not contain any animal products, including eggs.

Read the guide to the use of human and animal products in vaccines on GOV.UK

COVID-19 vaccine safety

The safety of the vaccines has been extensively reviewed in both adults and children by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The MHRA are continuously monitoring the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines and reports of serious side effects are very rare.

Find out more about the MHRA on GOV.UK

Common side effects of COVID-19 vaccination

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

  • a sore arm from the injection
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • mild flu-like symptoms

If you have any side effects, you or your child should rest. You can also take pain relief such as paracetamol or paracetamol for children to help you or your child feel better.

Read about what to expect after your COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK

Urgent advice: Contact NHS 111 if:

You or your child have had a COVID-19 vaccine and:

  • have symptoms that are getting worse
  • you're worried about your or your child's symptoms

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Very rare side effects of COVID-19 vaccination

Allergic reactions

Most people with allergies (including food or penicillin allergies) can be vaccinated against COVID-19.

If you've ever had an allergic reaction, tell the healthcare staff at your appointment before you're vaccinated.

If you have a common allergy

If you've had a mild allergic reaction before, such as a rash, swelling, wheezing or hives, you’ll be able to get your COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, pharmacy or participating GP surgery.

Staff giving the vaccine are trained to help you manage any allergies or side effects.

If you have a severe allergy

If you are at risk of a severe allergic reaction, vaccination staff or your GP may refer you to a specialist clinic for your vaccination.

This will only happen in rare cases, for example if you have a history of anaphylaxis.

An expert allergist or specialist will assess your risk and may advise you to have your COVID-19 vaccination in hospital where you can be monitored.

Heart inflammation (myocarditis)

There have been rare cases of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) reported after COVID-19 vaccination. Most people who had this recovered following rest and simple treatments.

Find out more about myocarditis and COVID-19 vaccines on the British Heart Foundation website

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:

You or your child have any of these symptoms within a few days of being vaccinated:

  • chest pain or feeling of tightness in the chest
  • severe difficulty breathing – you're gasping, choking or not able to get words out
  • a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart (palpitations)

Do not drive to A&E. Ask someone to drive you or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Bring any medicines you take with you.

More information

Read more about vaccine effectiveness statistics on the Office of National Statistics website

Read the monitoring reports of the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK

Vaccination information for other parts of the UK

Page last reviewed: 15 April 2024
Next review due: 15 April 2027