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Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 vaccines

This page answers the key questions about the COVID-19 vaccines that are now available on the NHS. For questions about the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, please click here.

The Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are now available. All three vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of protection, and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA.

On 28 May 2021, the one-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the MHRA. You can read the MHRA's statement on the approval here. More information on when the vaccine will become available in England will be shared in due course.

Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.

The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that all of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.

As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products.

There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.

The MHRA is carrying out a detailed review of reports of a very rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of people who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. 

The problem can also happen in people who have not been vaccinated and it's not yet clear why it affects some people.

The COVID-19 vaccine can help stop you getting seriously ill or dying from coronavirus. 

You can find out further information in the latest patient information leaflet

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 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Call 111 immediately if you get any of these symptoms starting from around 4 days to 4 weeks after being vaccinated:

  • a severe headache that is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse
  • a headache that feels worse when you lie down or bend over
  • a headache that's unusual for you and occurs with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures (fits)
  • a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain
If you have had a positive COVID test you need to wait 28 days before you attend for a COVID vaccination.  This is 28 days either from the day you began to feel unwell with COVID symptoms or the day you had your test if you did not have any symptoms. 

If you're pregnant, you should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when you're eligible for it. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

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.

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

There's no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant. There's no need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination.

The Royal College of Midwives has produced a helpful Frequently Asked Questions & Answers document for pregnant women which you can access here.

No. Any vaccines that the NHS will provide will have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they get, it is worth their while.

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.

Yes, the vaccine is safe for people with sickle cell.

No. There is no material of animal origin in any of the three vaccines. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

For the Moderna vaccine information is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-moderna

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

It is not yet clear if it was caused by the vaccines, but get urgent medical advice if you have any of these symptoms within a few days of being vaccinated:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart (palpitations)

There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even after 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
This information is correct as at: 20/09/2021