Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccine
The news of the approval of coronavirus vaccines in the UK has provided a sense of hope. Whether you want your vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you, or you’re a bit hesitant about getting it, it’s important to rely on information you can trust.
Is the vaccine safe?
All vaccines have been assessed and approved by The UK regulators. Each vaccine is safe and offers a high level of protection against becoming severely unwell. No one will receive a vaccine that has not been approved or shown to be safe.
When will I get the vaccine?
Coronavirus vaccines will be made available to all adults at some point and we don’t know exactly when this might be.
The Government has prioritised certain groups and the initial priority groups are set out below, starting with those considered high priority:
- Older adults that are a resident in a care home and their care workers.
- Everyone aged 80+ and all health and social care workers.
- Everyone aged 75+.
- Everyone aged 70+ and all those considered clinically extremely vulnerable and have been shielding.
- Everyone aged 65+.
- Everyone aged 16-64 with an underlying health condition which puts them at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell, and unpaid carers.
- Everyone 60+.
- Everyone 55+.
- Everyone 50+.
Age is the most important risk factor for being admitted to hospital and dying from coronavirus, so the oldest age groups and older people living in care homes are a top priority.
It is possible that the guidance on priority groups may change as more information becomes available on the individual vaccines and groups listed above.
How can I get the vaccine?
Currently the top six priority groups listed above are eligible for the vaccine. If you’re aged 70 and over or clinically extremely vulnerable, then you don’t need to wait to be contacted but can book an appointment at a vaccination centre or pharmacy site online here or by calling 119 between 7am and 11pm. Those in priority groups five and six should still wait to be contacted. Health and social care workers and care home vaccinations should be organised by your employer or care home.
To book an appointment it would be helpful to have your NHS number, which you can get from communication from the NHS or from some medications, but if you’re registered with a GP you can still book without an NHS number. You’re able to book an appointment on behalf of someone else.
If a suitable appointment isn’t available or it’s not possible for you to attend a larger vaccination centre, for example if you’re unable to travel to the vaccination centre or you are housebound then you can contact your GP practice and they can support you to access a more local option.
There’s no time limit for getting vaccinated. If you’ve already been contacted about an appointment and haven’t taken it up or you’ve declined, and you’re in one of the top six priority groups then you’re still able to book a vaccine and can either follow the instructions above on booking an appointment.
Where will I get the vaccine?
Vaccinations will take place at one of the following settings:
- at a hospital
- in the community – through GPs and pharmacists
- in specially designated vaccination centres
- in your home if necessary.
The number of vaccination sites is increasing all the time to help vaccinate as many people as possible.
If you can't travel to get a vaccine, you will still be contacted. The NHS is working on special arrangements for people who are housebound.
What will happen at my appointment?
Make sure you arrive on time but not too early for your appointment to minimise contact between people getting vaccinated. Where possible you should attend alone for social distancing measures, however if you need support in attending then one carer or family member can attend the appointment with you.
Remember a face covering if you’re able to wear one and practice social distancing and good, regular hand washing to prevent the spread of infection.
When you attend your appointment, you’ll be asked:
- How you’re feeling and if you have any symptoms that would stop you from being able to have the vaccine.
- About your medical history.
- If you have any questions.
- To consent to having the vaccine.
You’ll need to bring:
- A face covering, unless you are exempt from wearing one
- Your booking reference number if your appointment is at a large vaccination centre
- Proof of your occupation if you’re a health or care worker
What to expect:
- All places offering vaccines will have social distancing and other measures in place to keep you safe.
- Depending on which vaccine you receive, you may be asked to wait for 15 minutes after having the vaccination.
- You’ll be given a leaflet about what to expect after your vaccination to take home with you.
- You’ll be given a record card.
- Your next appointment will be in the period up to 12 weeks after your first vaccination and in the same place as your first one.
Keep your record card safe and make sure you attend your next appointment. After receiving your first and second doses of the vaccine you must continue to follow government coronavirus rules and guidance. It’s important to return for your second dose as this maximises long term immunity.
The NHS has provided some information about what to expect at your appointment, including what to bring to it.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
Each vaccine has gone through trials to ensure the risk of serious side effects is very low. However, as with other vaccines such as the flu vaccine, there are some common side effects. These could include:
- A sore, 'heavy' arm where you had your injection.
- Feeling tired.
- A headache.
- General achiness or mild flu-like symptoms.
For a small proportion of people, their glands might swell. If this happens, you're advised to take paracetamol.
If you do experience any of these side effects, they're likely to last no longer than a week. But if they get worse or you're concerned you should call NHS 111 and explain your symptoms and let them know you've had a vaccination.
Serious reactions to vaccines are uncommon but can happen. People with an allergy to the ingredients of the vaccine should not receive it, however those with other allergies such as food and other medicines are able to receive the vaccine. If you’re concerned, speak to your healthcare professional for further advice.
What happens after I've had my vaccination?
While being vaccinated provides good protection from becoming unwell with coronavirus and we’re all looking forward to be able to see our friends and family again, it’s very important that when you have been vaccinated you continue to follow social distancing rules and any government guidance on restrictions.
- Self-isolating if you’re required to do so, for more information see here.
- Maintaining social distancing measures from those not in your household or support bubble.
- Booking a test and self-isolating if you have symptoms of coronavirus.
- Wearing a face covering if you are able and where it is required to do so.
- Following Government guidance on meeting with others in your area.
This is because:
- You will not be protected straight away. Depending on the vaccine you may take 2 or 3 weeks to develop immunity.
- No vaccine is 100% effective. Even after you’ve waited those first few weeks, and following your second dose, your vaccination may not offer you complete protection from becoming unwell with coronavirus.
- Restrictions will remain in place as long as there are large numbers of people in the UK with coronavirus.
- We don’t yet know how well the coronavirus vaccines work at preventing transmission of the virus. It’s therefore possible that after vaccination you could catch coronavirus but have no symptoms, so be able to pass it on unknowingly to someone else.
For more information, download our COVID-19 Vaccine information sheet (link to COVID-19 information booklet)
For more information, download our COVID-19 Vaccine information sheet
NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) information
Latest Government Guidance