COVID-19 vaccine

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Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.

In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at local vaccination centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres. More centres are opening all the time.

It’s being given to:

  • people aged 80 and over
  • some people aged 70 and over
  • some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • health and social care workers

The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Wait to be contacted

The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. It’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.

Letters are being sent out every week – you might not get your letter straight away.

Advice if you’re of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant. But more evidence is needed before you can routinely be offered it.

The JCVI has updated its advice to recommend you may be able to have the vaccine if you’re pregnant and:

  • at high risk of getting coronavirus because of where you work
  • have a health condition that means you’re at high risk of serious complications of coronavirus

You can have the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re breastfeeding.

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

You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

How the COVID-19 vaccine is given

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm.

It’s given as 2 doses. You will have the 2nd dose 3 to 12 weeks after having the 1st dose.

How to get the COVID-19 vaccine

If you’ve been sent a letter you can book your vaccination appointments online.

How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety.

Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

So far, millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection.

There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.

This means it is important to:

  • continue to follow social distancing guidance
  • if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to stay away from other people

COVID-19 vaccine side effects

Most side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm where the needle went in
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to.

If you have a high temperature you may have coronavirus or another infection.

If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.

Allergic reactions

Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction.

You should not have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to:

  • a previous dose of the same vaccine
  • any of the ingredients in the vaccine

Serious allergic reactions are rare. 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.

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