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Home » News and events » Latest news » COVID-19 national vaccination programme » Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 vaccines

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.

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 an extremely rare blood clotting problem affecting a small number of people who had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

It's not yet clear why it affects some people.

The COVID-19 vaccine can help stop you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. For people aged 40 or over and those with other health conditions, the benefits of being vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risk of clotting problems.

For people under 40 without other health conditions, it's preferable for you to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine instead of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccination and blood clotting on GOV.UK

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 along 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 are aged 18+ (or aged 12-17 and in an at-risk group) and have had a positive COVID-19 test you need to wait 28 days before you attend for a COVID-19 vaccination.  This is 28 days from the day you had your test.


If you are aged 12-17 and you are not in an at-risk group, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommends that you wait 12 weeks after a positive test showing COVID-19 infection before getting a COVID-19 vaccination.

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.

You cannot usually choose which vaccine you have. When you book, you'll only be offered appointments for vaccines that are suitable for you.

Most people can have any of the COVID-19 vaccines, but some people are only offered certain vaccines.

For example:

  • if you're pregnant or under 40 you'll usually be offered appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines
  • if you're under 18, you'll only be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Most people with allergies (including food or penicillin allergies) can be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Tell healthcare staff before you're vaccinated if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis). They may ask what you're allergic to, to make sure you can have the vaccine.

Serious allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines are very rare.

If you do have a reaction, it usually happens in minutes. Staff giving the vaccine are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

If you have a serious allergic reaction to the 1st dose of a vaccine, you should not have the same vaccine for your 2nd dose.

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 (myocarditis) reported after COVID-19 vaccination. Most people who had this recovered following rest and simple treatments.

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)

The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease.

It may take a few weeks from the first dose for your body to build up protection. Your body should respond more quickly (after a few days) after any additional doses. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.

To protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues, you must still:

  • wear a face mask where advised
  • wash your hands carefully and frequently
  • open windows to let fresh air in
  • follow the current guidance
This information is correct as at: 21/04/2022