Coronavirus FAQs: vaccine

We know that people have a lot of questions about the new vaccinations for Coronavirus.  Many people are naturally keen to be vaccinated as quickly as possible so that they can get on with their lives, but there is a clear rollout strategy and the NHS is working hard to vaccinate the most vulnerable as quickly as possible. 

The NHS is currently offering the Coronavirus vaccine to the following people most at risk from coronavirus:

  • people aged 18 and over
  • people who are at high risk from coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable)
  • people who are at moderate risk from coronavirus (clinically vulnerable)
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • health and social care workers
  • people who are eligible for Carer’s Allowance

If you are aged 18 or over, or are clinically extremely vulnerable, an eligible frontline health worker or an eligible frontline social worker or you are eligible for Carer’s Allowance, you can now get your Coronavirus vaccination.

Coronavirus vaccine appointments are available at the large vaccination centre at the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD. The centre is open 9am to 7pm every day. Please take along proof of your age, name and address and your NHS number (if you have it, you can still get vaccinated without this).

You can make an appointment by booking via the National Booking Portal or by calling NHS 119, free of charge.  There are a number of other large vaccination sites across North West London you can use if you are entitled to get vaccinated.

Vaccination sites are run by NHS professionals and have extra measures in place to keep you safe during your visit. If you would prefer to receive the vaccine at a GP surgery, please wait to be contacted. 

You can visit the NHS website for further information on the vaccine.

Second doses

As the Government continues to rollout the vaccination programme, it is vital that those who have received their first jab, get the second one when they can.  The first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine offers a high level of protection, but to get longer-lasting protection everyone will need to get a second dose. If you had your first jab over eight weeks ago you may now have your second vaccination.  You can move your appointment by going to the booking site to cancel your appointment and re-book, by calling NHS119, free of charge or you can go to some of the mass vaccination sites which may have spare capacity that offer walk-ins to those wanting AstraZeneca second jabs. 

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve had about the vaccines.

What vaccine for Coronavirus is currently available?

In the UK, there are three types of Coronavirus vaccine which have been approved for use:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • Moderna vaccine

The Coronavirus vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. They all require two doses to provide the best protection.

The latest evidence suggests the first dose of the vaccine provides protection for up to three months for most people. As a result of this, there has been a change to length of time between the first and second dose of the vaccine.

The second dose was previously 21 days after having the first dose, but this has now changed to three months after.

Who should have the Coronavirus vaccine?

The NHS is currently offering the vaccine to people most at risk from Coronavirus. This includes older adults, frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, and those with certain clinical conditions. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible.

How do I get the COVID-19 vaccination?

If you are in one of the eligible groups you can book online or by calling NHS 119.

Walk-in Coronavirus vaccine appointments are also available at the Science Museum, South Kensington, for those eligible to be vaccinated. The centre is open 9am to 7pm every day. Please take along proof of your age, name and address and your NHS number, if you have it.

The walk-in service operates on a first come, first served basis for residents eligible to be vaccinated and it is possible you will be asked to come back another day should supplies run out on a given day.

For information about vaccines, visit the NHS website.

I’ve had my first Coronavirus vaccine, where can I find more information on what to expect next?

When you are contacted by the NHS for your second dose of the vaccine, please attend your appointment.

Visit the NHS North West London website for further detailed information.

Are the vaccines safe?

Yes, the vaccines have been proven to be safe. The NHS will not offer any Coronavirus vaccinations to the public unless independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so. The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said the three types of vaccine are safe and highly effective. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and monitoring continues after authorisation.

But what about the AstraZeneca vaccine, is that safe to have?

The Medicines Regulator, the MHRA, has confirmed the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks, this is despite a possible link between the vaccination and extremely rare and unlikely specific blood clots.

To put this into context, the overall risk of these blood clots is about four people in every million who receive that vaccine.

The advice continues to be that the benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh any risks and that vaccines continue to be the best way to protect against COVID-19.

There is new, and specific advice for some groups:

1. Anyone who is at a higher risk of specific types of blood clots because of their medical condition should speak to their GP before receiving their COVID-19 vaccination.

2. 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 AstraZeneca vaccine.

Anyone who did not have these side effects should come forward for their second dose when invited.

For people aged 40 or over and those with other health conditions, the NHS advises that the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh any risk of clotting problems.

Will the vaccine protect me?

The vaccine will reduce the chance of you suffering from Coronavirus. Each vaccine has been tested in more than 20,000 people in different countries and shown to be safe. It may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions after vaccination to avoid infection. Some people may still get Coronavirus despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.

Will the vaccine have side effects?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them.

The Medicines Regulator, the MHRA, has confirmed the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks, this is despite a possible link between the vaccination and extremely rare and unlikely specific blood clots.

The advice continues to be that the benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh any risks and that vaccines continue to be the best way to protect against COVID-19.

If your first dose was with the AstraZeneca vaccine and you did not suffer any serious side effects, you should have the second dose on time as you may still be at high risk of the complications of COVID-19. Having the second dose will give you higher and longer lasting protection.

Visit the NHS North West London website for further detailed information.

Will the vaccine work with the new strain?

Yes, there is no evidence currently that the new strain will be resistant to the current vaccines. Viruses, such as the winter flu, branch into different strains, but these small variations rarely make vaccines ineffective.

Should people who have already had Coronavirus get vaccinated?

Yes, you should get vaccinated if you are offered the Coronavirus vaccine by the NHS. The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had Coronavirus as it is for those who haven’t.

Do I need to leave a space between having the flu vaccine and having the COVID-19 vaccine?

It is not essential to leave time between the flu and Coronavirus vaccine but it is recommended that there should be a gap of a week. There has never been a more important time to make sure you – and those you care for – are protected against serious illnesses such as the flu. If you haven’t already received your flu jab and are eligible for the free vaccine, please contact your GP or Pharmacist to book your appointment.

Can I get the Coronavirus vaccine privately?

No. Coronavirus vaccinations are currently only available through the NHS. Anyone who claims to be able to provide you with a vaccine for a fee is likely to be committing a crime and should be reported to the Police 101 service and/or Local Trading Standards.

I’m pregnant/breastfeeding, should I get the vaccine?

You can take the vaccine. The MHRA has updated its guidance for pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.

If you're pregnant, you should be offered the vaccine when you're eligible for it.

It's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine because they've been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and have not caused any safety issues. Pregnant women are able to book through the NHS booking service and will be directed to vaccination centres offering Pfizer and Moderna in their local area in line with this guidance. If you are pregnant you can also speak to your GP practice or maternity service if you have any questions about the vaccine or can talk to a healthcare professional at your vaccination appointment.

You can also have the vaccine if you're breastfeeding.

Speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination. They will discuss the benefits and risks with you.

There's no evidence that the Coronavirus vaccine has any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant. There is no need to avoid becoming pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

Visit the NHS North West London website for further detailed information.

What about the allergic reactions that have been reported?

The Coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective for the vast majority of people – they have been tested on tens of thousands of people and assessed by experts. Tell staff before you are vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction

(anaphylaxis). You should not have the vaccine if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction to a previous vaccine. 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.

Can I catch Coronavirus from the vaccine?

You cannot catch Coronavirus from the vaccine, but it is possible to have caught Coronavirus and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment.

For more information on Coronavirus symptoms, visit the NHS website.

Can I give Coronavirus to anyone, after I have had the vaccine?

We do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus. So, it is important to follow the guidance in your local area to protect those around you. To protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues you still need to:

  • practice social distancing
  • wear a face mask
  • wash your hands carefully and frequently
  • let fresh air into your home by opening windows, doors and air vents as much as possible
  • follow the current Government guidance for your local area

When will I have my second vaccine booked?

If your GP booked you in for your first vaccine they will contact you and book you for your second vaccine 11 to 12 weeks later. Please note your GP may not contact you to book you in until 9 to 10 weeks after your first vaccine. 

If you booked your first vaccine through one of the online booking systems, you will be able to book your second vaccine for 11 to12 weeks later through the national booking system , you can do this the day after you have had your first vaccine.

What happens if more than 12 weeks passes before I have my second vaccine?
If for any reason you miss having your second vaccine 12 weeks after your first, please make sure you book-in and have it as soon as possible.

Where will I go for my second vaccine?
You will need to return to the same venue that you had your first vaccine for your second.