Skip to content

Frequently asked questions

An introduction to the Covid-19 vaccine

Is the vaccine safe?

Has the vaccine been testing on people like me?

How was the vaccine developed so quickly?

What is in the vaccine and how does it work?

What are the long-term side effects?

  1. How will students receive the Covid-19 vaccine?

    The Covid-19 vaccination is being offered to everyone aged 18 or over at local sites run by GPs or community pharmacies, at larger vaccination centres and in some hospitals. Local areas may also work with partners to set up "pop up" temporary clinics at locations convenient for students to access, for example, on university campuses.

    Students registered with a GP can book their appointment at a larger vaccination centre, a community pharmacy run site or at some GP run sites through the National Booking Service website or by phoning 119.

    Those who are registered with a GP will also receive an invitation to be vaccinated from their GP practice.

    See more answers to FAQs regarding student vaccination.

  2. How will I know that my vaccine invitation is legitimate?

    In the UK, the coronavirus vaccines will only be available via the NHS.

    You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, a GP surgery or a pharmacy local to you, to receive the vaccine. Remember the vaccine is free of charge.

    • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details
    • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password
    • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
    • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

    If you receive a call that you believe is fraudulent, hang up. If you believe that you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft, you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

  3. Is the Covid-19 vaccine safe?

    Before any vaccine can be used, it must pass strict quality, safety and effectiveness tests and be granted approval by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA follows international standards of safety and approved vaccines must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks that all other licensed medicines go through.

    The Covid-19 vaccine is no different and has been approved by the MHRA.

    To find out more about vaccines approved in the UK, see:

    Regulatory approval of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

    Regulatory approval of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

    Regulatory approval of COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

  4. How is the Covid-19 vaccine given?

    The Covid-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. It’s given as two doses. You will have the second dose three to 12 weeks after having the first dose.

    You will have two doses of the same vaccine.

  5. How many doses of the vaccine will I need?

    Vaccines offer important protection to reduce risk, but they don’t make you invincible. Protection from any vaccine takes time to build up. In general, the older you are the longer it takes. It will take at least two weeks in younger people and at least three weeks in older people before you can expect to have a good antibody response. But you need to have two doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection.

    There is a chance that you might still get, or spread Covid-19 even if you have had both doses of the vaccine.

  6. How can people be confident that there won’t be long-term side effects?

    Every single vaccine authorised for use in the UK has been assessed for safety by the MHRA. Millions of people have already received the Covid-19 vaccine. The MHRA operates the Yellow Card scheme on behalf of the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM). The scheme collects and monitors information on suspected safety concerns and relies on voluntary reporting of suspected adverse incidents by healthcare professionals and members of the public (users, patients and healthcare professionals). You can find out more at yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk.
  7. How do I know that vaccines have been widely tested on people like me?

    Each of the vaccines has been tested on tens of thousands of people across the world and over 60 million people have taken the vaccine in the UK. They’re tested on both men and women, on people from different ethnic backgrounds, representative of the UK population and of all ages between 18–84.
  8. Are there any reasons that I cannot get the vaccine?

    Please do not book the vaccine if you:

    • Have received a flu vaccination in the last seven days
    • Currently have a fever
    • Have a history of an allergic reaction to the ingredients of the vaccines
    • Had the onset of Covid-19 symptoms and/or tested positive for Covid-19 in the last four weeks
  9. Which vaccines are available?

    The Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are both available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection and have been given regulatory approval by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The Moderna vaccine has also been approved, though it is not currently available in Leicestershire.
  10. Can I choose which vaccine I get?

    All currently authorised and recommend Covid-19 vaccines are safe and very effective. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are being rolled out at the same time. There are no current plans to mix these vaccines. If your first dose is the Pfizer vaccine you should not be given the AstraZeneca vaccine for your second dose and vice versa. Both vaccines have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get will be highly effective and protect them from Coronavirus. The most important decision is to get a Covid-19 vaccination as soon as possible. Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic.
  11. How long does the vaccine take to become effective?

    The Covid-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from Coronavirus. The short-term (after 3 weeks) vaccine efficacy from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is calculated at around 90% and around 70% for the Oxford-AstraZeneca, with high protection against severe disease. As a comparison the annual flu vaccination is on average 40% effective against influenza virus.
  12. Can I still get my vaccine during a lockdown?

    Yes. Getting the Covid-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine, is an important medical appointment and so is within the rules wherever you live. If you have booked or are offered an appointment, please attend it.
  13. I have received a letter from the NHS inviting me to book an appointment for my vaccine, but when I went onto the website there weren’t any appointments available nearby?

    If you have received a letter from the NHS nationally inviting you to book your vaccine please don’t worry if you are struggling to get through on the phone or have gone online and find that the sites on offer are too far to travel to.

    Mass vaccination sites have been set up along with a number of pharmacy sites and are running seven days a week alongside local GP-led vaccinations, with the aim of offering as many options to people as possible to get vaccinated.

    If you don’t want to attend one of these sites, you don’t have to. You will still be able to have your vaccine from the local GP-led service and will be contacted directly by your GP practice.

    You will have received the letter because when it was sent, your medical records did not show that you have received the vaccine. If you have received the vaccine or already have an appointment, there is no need to answer the letter or to book another appointment.

  14. Can I go to my GP to be vaccinated?

    Due to the complexity of organising a programme on this scale, a national decision was made that GP practices had to work together in groups to deliver the programme. The combined resources and expertise means that we are better able to ensure social distancing which has made the process safer for both patients and staff.
  15. Can I get my vaccine from the pharmacist, like I did with the flu jab?

    At present, vaccinations are mainly being given at GP-led vaccination centres. However, some community pharmacies are beginning to offer the vaccine, with more set to offer the vaccine in the coming weeks. You must still wait to be contacted by the NHS inviting you for a vaccine. Please do not contact your pharmacy directly asking about the vaccine.
  16. Can I go back to work or university after having my vaccine?

    Yes, you should be able to work or study as long as you feel well enough to do so. If you feel unwell or very tired, you should rest and avoid driving.

    The vaccine cannot give you the Covid-19 infection. However, you will need to continue to follow the guidance in your workplace or university, including wearing the correct personal protection equipment and taking part in any testing programmes.

  17. Can I get the vaccine if I have an underlying health condition?

    People with underlying medical conditions can receive a Covid-19 vaccine as long as they have not had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to a Covid-19 vaccine or to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Vaccination is an important consideration for adults of any age with an underlying health condition because they are at increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19.
  18. If I have already had Covid-19 and recovered or have long Covid, do I still need to get the vaccine?

    Getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Covid-19 a it is for those who haven’t, including those who have mild residual symptoms. Where people are suffering significant ongoing complications from Covid-19, they should discuss whether to have the vaccine with a clinician.
  19. Can I get vaccinated if I currently have Covid-19?

    No. People currently unwell and experiencing Covid-19 symptoms should not receive the vaccine until they have recovered. Please discuss this with our GP but do not book an appointment if you or someone you live with has Covid-19.
  20. Does it matter that I’m not registered with a GP?

    Only patients registered with a GP practice will be invited for a vaccination. If you are not currently registered with a practice you are encouraged to do so as soon as possible.

    How to register with a GP surgery - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
  21. What do I do if I haven’t got transport to the vaccination centre?

    If you are unable to get to the vaccine centre you can speak to your usual GP practice, and ask if they can make a referral for you to the NHS Volunteer Responders Scheme. There are volunteers offering transport through this scheme.
  22. I’m housebound and unable to get to the vaccine centre, how will I get my vaccine?

    Patients who are housebound are being offered the vaccine at home. If you have not yet been contacted, please speak to your GP practice, to make sure that they know you are housebound and to find out when you will receive the vaccine.
  23. How do I know if I meet the criteria for the priority group?

    All individuals aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions are considered part of the priority group.

    Read more about who is at risk. If this describes you, you can book your vaccine appointment now.

    The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations gives a list of health conditions that relate to this priority group. Please refer to: "Persons with underlying health conditions" on this page.

    Further advice on risk groups, including clear definitions are set out in the Green Book – Immunisation Against Infectious Disease.

  24. I’m an unpaid carer and I look after someone who is clinically vulnerable, can I get the vaccine?

    The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations states that: "those who ate in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the career falls ill, should also be offered vaccination alongside these groups."

    If this describes you, you can book your vaccine appointment now.

    Please refer to: "Persons with underlying health conditions" on this page.

  25. What happens if I miss my appointment?

    If you cannot attend your vaccine appointment, please contact your usual GP practice to rearrange your appointment.
  26. I’m pregnant, breastfeeding or want to get pregnant, can I get the Covid-19 vaccine?

    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 any other reason that means your 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 safety issues.

    You can book your Covid-19 vaccination online. If you’re under 40, you’ll only be shown appointments for Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. If you’re 40 or over, you’ll be asked if you’re pregnant to make sure you’re only shown these vaccines.

    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 have it. You can also speak to your GP or maternity team for advice.

    It’s recommended that you have the same vaccine for both doses.

    If you’ve had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for your first dose and did not have any serious side effects, then you should have it for your second 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 is no need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.

    The vaccine cannot give you or your baby Covid-19.

    Read the latest Covid-19 vaccine advice if you’re pregnant, may get pregnant or are breastfeeding on GOV.UK

    Read the latest Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives statement on the Covid-19 vaccine and fertility

  27. Is it safe for my child to get the Covid-19 vaccine?

    Yes. Studies show that Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Like adults, children may have some side effects after vaccination.
  28. Why should my child get the Covid-19 vaccine?

    The Covid-19 vaccination can help protect your child from getting Covid-19. Although fewer children have been sick with Covid-19 compared to adults, children can be infected and can get sick from Covid-19, and can spread the virus to others.
  29. How long does protection from the vaccine last?

    We don’t know yet how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated. What we do know is that Covid-19 has caused very serious illness and death for a lot of people. If you get Covid-19, you also risk giving it to loved ones who may get very sick.
  30. What are the side effects from getting the vaccine?

    Like all medicines, vaccine can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. You may not be protected until at east seven days after your second dose of the vaccine.

    Common side effects include:

    • Having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worse 1-2 days after the vaccine
    • Feeling tired
    • Headache
    • General aches, or mild flu-like symptoms

    As the case with all vaccines appropriate treatment and care will be available in case of a rare anaphylactic reaction following administration.

  31. Do I still need to wear a mask and socially distance from others if I have received two doses of the vaccine?

    Yes. People who’ve had both does of the vaccine still need to wear a mask and socially distance from others because they can still pass on the virus.
  32. Is the Covid-19 vaccine vegetarian?

    Yes. The Covid-19 vaccines currently approved in the UK do not contain any components of animal origin.
  33. Does the Covid-19 vaccine contain alcohol and therefore not permissible?

    The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine contains a tiny amount of ethanol. Less than what you would find in some of your daily groceries like bread. Faith Leaders and Muslim Scholars have said that the vaccine is not Haram.
  34. How do I know if the Covid-19 vaccine is suitable for people of my faith?

    The approved Covid-19 vaccines are suitable for people of all faiths. They don’t contain any components of animal origin or foetal cells.
  35. I’m young and low risk, do I still need to have the vaccine?

    The average age of people in intensive care is 60, but people much younger have been seriously ill and died too, with thousands more still suffering the effects of Long Covid after what might have been a mild initial case.

    If we’ve learned anything from this last year, it’s that nobody is really safe. Anyone can get Covid-19, including young people, and anyone can spread it. Getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and others around you from the virus, vaccines reduce infections, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19.

  36. Will I get a blood clot if I have the AstraZeneca vaccine?

    The MHRA is carrying out a detailed review of reports of a very rare blood clotting problem effecting a very small number of people who have had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. People under 40 without any other health conditions, are currently advise to have a different vaccine instead of the Oxford-AstraZeneca. Everybody who has already had a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should receive a second dose of the same brand, irrespective of age. The exception is a very small number of people who experienced blood clots with low platelet counts from their first vaccination.

    If you are unsure, speak to a healthcare professional.

  37. I have had my flu vaccine, do I need the Covid-19 vaccine too?

    The flu vaccine does not protect you from Covid-19. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both, but normally separated by at least a week.
  38. Can I get a vaccine privately?

    No. Vaccinations are only available through the NHS. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, or a GP surgery local to you, to receive your vaccine. Remember the vaccine is free of charge.
  39. Why are some patients receiving Covid-19 vaccination cards?

    When patients are vaccinated, the are likely to receive a vaccine record card that notes the date of their vaccination, the suggested date for their second dose and details of the vaccine type and batch number.
  40. Is this a vaccine ID record card showing proof of vaccination?

    This is a vaccine record card, similar to those given to patients for other NHS vaccinations as a note of when they received their vaccine. It is not intended to be used for any other purpose, or as an immunity certificate. All vaccinations are recorded on the patient’s record with their GP.

Information for International Students

  1. Are international students eligible for the vaccination?

    Anybody aged 18 or over in the UK is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination for free, regardless of their nationality or immigration status.
  2. Do international students need to pay for the vaccine?

    Nobody in England has to pay for the COVID-19 vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccination is free of charge and does not count as the kind of care that requires payment. International students or anyone seeing requests for payment should report this activity to their university institution and to Action Fraud. More information on COVID-19 vaccine scams is on the Action Fraud website here.

  3. Do international students need to be registered with a GP to get a vaccination?

    While registration with a GP is encouraged to access the vaccine, you can request to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments as an unregistered patient through a local GP practice.

  4. How does an international student get an NHS number?

    International students can approach their local GP practice, saying they would like to register for the purposes of receiving the vaccine.
  5. Are any dependents of international students also eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination?

    Anyone in England is eligible for the vaccine if they fall within the current eligibility criteria set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and should come forward once it is their turn.
  6. How does an international student get a vaccine?

    We encourage international students to register with a GP and get an NHS number. An NHS number can be found on any letter the NHS has sent you, on a prescription, or by logging in to a GP practice online service. You can also find an NHS number using this tool. It is possible to request to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments as an unregistered patient by approaching a local GP practice. While registration with a GP is encouraged to access the vaccine, you can request to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments as an unregistered patient through a local GP practice.

  7. If an international student is not registered with a GP, will they still be invited for their vaccination?

    Students who are not registered with a GP will not be proactively contacted by a local NHS service, so we encourage all students to register with a GP. However, international students can book their vaccination appointments via the National Booking Service with their NHS number if they have previously received NHS treatment. You can also find an NHS number using this tool.

  8. What should I do if I’ve received my first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination abroad, and it is not a vaccine that is being offered in England?

    If a person has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine overseas that is also available in the UK, they should receive the same vaccine for their second dose. If the vaccine they received for their first dose is not available in the UK, the most similar alternative should be offered. You should contact a GP to ensure you receive an appropriate vaccine for your second dose.