COVID-19 vaccination questions and answers

Getting vaccinated


How is the COVID-19 vaccine given?

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm. It’s given as 2 doses, between 3 and 12 weeks apart.


What will happen on the day of my appointment?

Please remember to eat and drink before and after your vaccine, especially if you have a morning appointment.

What you need to bring:

  • A face covering, unless you cannot wear one for a health or disability reason
  • Your booking reference number if your appointment is at Ashton Gate Vaccination Centre or a community pharmacy vaccination site.

If you need a carer, they can come with you on the day.

If you have a disability that is hidden, please let a staff member know or wear your yellow sunflower lanyard. Staff and volunteers at the vaccination sites will then be aware that you may need additional support.

What happens at the appointment?

Your appointment should last for around 30 to 45 minutes.

You’ll be asked to confirm your name, date of birth and the first line of your address.

You’ll also be asked some questions about your medical history.

It’s important to tell staff giving you the vaccination if you have ever had a severe reaction or you are pregnant.

If your appointment is at a vaccination centre, you’ll be asked for your booking reference numbers.

You will then be given an injection of the vaccine into your upper arm.

All places that offer COVID-19 vaccinations will help keep you safe from COVID-19. There will be regular cleaning and social distancing in waiting areas.

After the vaccination

You may be asked to wait for 15 minutes after having the vaccination. This is in the unlikely event you have a serious reaction to the vaccine.

Research has found it’s very rare to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine. If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes.

The team are trained to deal with reactions and treat them immediately.

You will also be given a leaflet about what to expect after your vaccination to take home with you.

I’m not going to be in a different part of the UK when it’s time for my second vaccine. What do I do?

If you have your first vaccine at a GP practice or at a ‘walk-in’ clinic, for example at College or University, they will let you know at the time how to access your second appointment.

This may mean returning to the GP practice or you may be asked to use the National Booking System to book your second vaccination, especially if you will be in a different location when your second dose is due.

If you have booked your first and second doses through the National Booking System you can use the ‘manage my booking’ function to cancel and amend your second appointment to a new location.


I’m an unpaid carer. Am I eligible for the vaccine?

As part of priority Group 6, we are now vaccinating unpaid carers who are a main carer for someone at high risk from coronavirus. Unpaid carers are defined as:

  • people who are eligible for Carer’s Allowance, or
  • people who are the sole or primary carer of an elderly or disabled person who is at increased risk of Covid-19 mortality and is therefore clinically vulnerable.

To be eligible for vaccination as part of Group 6, carers must deliver personal care to the individual at risk. This does not include, for example, shopping or cleaning.

If you are already registered as a carer with your GP or Local Authority, or if you have been confirmed as eligible for Carer’s Allowance, you will be invited for vaccination by your GP or asked to book through the national booking service. It is possible you may be invited for vaccination more than once. Please do not be concerned and only book one appointment. Please do not contact the NHS.

If you deliver personal care to an ‘at risk’ person but are not registered as a carer or are not eligible for Carer’s Allowance, you can self-certify as an unpaid carer on the NHS online booking system or by calling 119 free of charge between 7am and 11pm.

Don’t forget, if you want additional support as a carer, or know of someone who does, please contact the relevant Carers Support Organisation, below:

Please note that the Carers Support organisations have no further information on the vaccine programme other than that above.

Read more about the priority groups

Watch COVID-19 vaccine video explainer: how are the priority groups decided?


I wasn’t ready to have the vaccine when I was first offered it, but have now changed my mind. Can I still have the vaccine?

We realise some people may take longer to make up their mind about having the coronavirus vaccine. If you weren’t ready when you were initially contacted and would now like to book your vaccine, you can still make an appointment using the online national booking service, or by calling 119 free of charge between 7am – 11pm, 7 days a week.


How will I be contacted?

Your GP practice will contact you by letter, phone call or text message to invite you to be vaccinated at your local GP-run vaccination site.

You may also receive a letter or text message from the national NHS vaccination programme inviting you to book your vaccine at Ashton Gate Stadium or your nearest pharmacy vaccination site.

If you have been invited to receive your vaccine at Ashton Gate Stadium or a pharmacy but you’d prefer to be vaccinated closer to home, you can wait to be contacted by your GP practice to book in at your local vaccination site instead.


How can I avoid getting scammed? What about fraudulent text messages, emails and phone calls?

We are aware there are a number of fraudulent text messages and emails in circulation linked to the COVID-19 vaccination. These text messages and emails claim to be from the NHS and ask people to provide payment details to verify their eligibility for the vaccine. 

The vaccine is only available from the NHS and is free of charge. We will never ask you for bank details or to pay for the vaccine. If you receive an email, text message or phone call that claims to be from the NHS and you are asked to provide financial details, this is a scam.

Read about the different ways you will be contacted and how to spot a scam


Who can get vaccinated at the Ashton Gate Stadium ‘super-vaccination centre’?

Priority groups, as outlined by the  Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, have been invited to receive their vaccine at the vaccination centre at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol.

If you are aged 25-49, a registered unpaid carer or a frontline health and social care staff member, you can book your appointment at Ashton Gate Vaccination Centre. If you’re in these eligible groups there is no need to wait, you can book now using the NHS online booking system or call 119 free of charge between 7am and 11pm.

If Ashton Gate Stadium is not convenient. We want to vaccinate the greatest number of people quickly and give people the best range of options.


Can I get a vaccination sooner, if I have a clinical procedure / treatment booked?

There is no flexibility for the order in which vaccinations are taking place, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on priority groups. JCVI advises that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age. Priority order is detailed elsewhere in this question list.

Read more about priority groups


Can people book a vaccine without their NHS number or if they aren’t registered with a GP?

The NHS will contact people to invite them for vaccination based on their GP records. However, people can still be vaccinated without an NHS number and without being registered with a GP.

Being registered with a GP does help the NHS check whether there are any reasons that someone might not be able to have a vaccine, and ensure there is a record that you have had both doses of the vaccine.

NHS.UK: How to register with a GP


What is being done to encourage vaccine uptake in ethnic minority communities/groups?

We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be more hesitant in taking the vaccine than others. The NHS is working collaboratively with its partners to ensure vaccine messages reach as diverse an audience as possible and are tailored to meet your needs.

This includes engagement with community and faith-led groups, charities and other voluntary organisations.

Sirona care & health recorded a video podcast which addresses some questions and concerns being raised by some in ethnic minority communities about the COVID-19 vaccine. Watch the video podcast on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Watch and read vaccine information in alternative language formats

Community leaders in Bristol speak out on getting vaccinated.


Why aren’t ethnic minority groups being prioritised?

There is clear evidence that certain ethnic minority groups have higher rates of infection, and higher rates of serious disease and mortality. The reasons are multiple and complex.

What is clear is that certain health conditions are associated with increased risk of serious disease, and these health conditions are often overrepresented in certain minority ethnic groups. Following the JCVI guidance that prioritises people with underlying health conditions, this will also provide for greater vaccination of ethnic minority communities who are disproportionately affected by such health conditions.

Tailored local implementation to promote good vaccine uptake in minority ethnic groups will be the most important factor within the vaccine programme in reducing health inequalities in these groups.

The NHS will provide advice and information at every possible opportunity, including working closely with ethnic minority communities, to support those receiving a vaccine and respond to anyone who has questions about the vaccination process.

Watch COVID-19 vaccine video explainer: How important is it for people from minority backgrounds to get the vaccine?


When should I receive the vaccine if I have asthma?

We are following the nationally defined criteria set out by the JCVI that allows us to contact the people we want to come forward for vaccination in order of those at greatest risk of a severe outcome from Covid-19. This includes people aged 16 – 64 with chronic respiratory disease, including some people with asthma who:

  • Have ever had an emergency asthma hospital admission
  • Have an asthma diagnosis and have had 3 prescriptions for oral steroids over a 3 month period (each prescription must fall within separate individual month windows), as an indication of repeated or continuous oral steroids.

Mild asthma, including that which can be treated by an inhaler alone, has not been found to carry a higher risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19.


What happens with leftover doses at the end of the day?

Whilst clinics are carefully planned to ensure that all the vaccine is allocated, inevitably, there are occasions when people are unable to attend their appointment.

We have contingency plans for when this happens to ensure that there is no wastage. For example, asking people within the eligible groups to attend at short notice, bringing forward second dose appointments within national guidance and sharing the vaccine among our vaccination sites. Therefore, we do not operate a reserve list for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Eligibility


In what circumstances am I NOT eligible to receive the vaccine?

There are a few circumstances in which you should postpone your vaccine, speak with your GP, or not book an appointment.

  • If you are unwell with a fever, please cancel your vaccination appointment and rebook for an alternative date.
  • If you have ever had a serious allergic reaction to a previous vaccine, a previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine, and some medicines, household products or cosmetics – please seek medical advice before being given the vaccine.
  • If you are taking part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial or any other investigation of a medicinal product, please contact your trial centre for further information.
  • If you received the flu vaccine in the last 7 days.

I live with someone who is severely immunosuppressed. Can I be vaccinated?

Household contacts of adults who are severely immunosuppressed are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination.

  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) definition of severely immunosuppressed people is those who are clinically extremely vulnerable with immunosuppression due to a condition or treatment who have been offered a vaccine as part of priority groups 4 or 6.
  • Household contacts are defined as people aged 16 or over who expect to share living accommodation with the person who is severely immunosuppressed on most days and therefore, for whom close contact is unavoidable.

GPs are contacting their immunosuppressed patients to ask anyone they live with, aged 16 or over, to contact their own surgery to arrange vaccination. Household contacts will be asked to show their text or letter together with their own ​ proof of address, which must match that of the immunosuppressed individual, to provide evidence of eligibility for vaccination.


I have had my flu vaccine, do I need the COVID-19 vaccine as well?

Yes. The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19. You should normally have them separated by at least a week.


Can I have the vaccine if I am HIV positive?

Yes, the department of health recommends Covid-19 vaccination for all people with HIV. The British HIV Association and Terrence Higgins Trust have produced guidance about COVID-19 vaccines for people living with HIV.


Can I get a vaccine if I am a Refugee/Asylum Seeker?

Yes. The Government have decided that there should be no charges for COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccination.

Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will not be charged for:

  • testing for COVID-19 (even if the test shows they do not have COVID-19)
  • treatment for COVID-19, including for a related problem called multisystem inflammatory syndrome that affects some children
  • vaccination against COVID-19

No immigration checks are needed for overseas visitors if they are only tested, treated or vaccinated for COVID-19.


What is the definition of an unpaid carer in priority group 6?

Unpaid carers are defined as:

  • people who are eligible for Carer’s Allowance, or
  • people who are the sole or main carer of an elderly or disabled person who is at increased risk of Covid-19 mortality and is therefore clinically vulnerable.

To be eligible for vaccination as part of group 6, carers must deliver personal care to the individual at risk. This does not include, for example, shopping or cleaning.

If you are already registered as a carer with your GP or Local Authority, or you have been confirmed as eligible for Carer’s Allowance, you will be invited for vaccination by your GP or asked to book through the national booking service. Please do not contact the NHS. It is possible you may be invited for vaccination more than once. Please do not be concerned and only book one appointment.

If you deliver personal care to an ‘at risk’ person but are not registered as a carer or are not eligible for Carer’s Allowance, you will also have the opportunity to be vaccinated. Further information about this will be available from in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please do not contact your GP or Local Authority directly to request a vaccination.

If you have had COVID-19


Should people who have already had COVID-19 or are suffering from ‘Long Covid’ get vaccinated?

Yes, you should get vaccinated. There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of COVID-19 infection, or with detectable COVID-19 antibody so people who have had COVID-19 disease (whether confirmed or suspected) can still receive COVID-19 vaccine.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had COVID-19 as it is for those who haven’t.

If you are suffering significant ongoing complications from COVID-19 you should discuss when to have the vaccine with your GP.


How long should I wait to be vaccinated after testing positive for COVID-19?

If you’ve recently tested positive for COVID-19 – even if you have no symptoms – you should wait 4 weeks (28 days) after the date you were tested before getting the vaccine.

Vaccine safety


How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccines approved for use in the UK were developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca and Moderna. They all meet 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 blood clots and allergic reactions have been very rare.

Watch COVID-19 explainer video:  What is an mRNA vaccine and how does it work?


Does the COVID-19 vaccine have side effects?

Most side effects 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 NHS 111.


If I’ve had the A/Z vaccine, what symptoms should I look out for after vaccination?

If I’ve had the A/Z vaccine, what symptoms should I look out for after vaccination?

Although serious side effects following vaccination are extremely rare, if you experience any of the following from around 4 days to 4 weeks after vaccination you should contact 111 or your GP, urgently.

  • a new, severe headache which is not helped by usual painkillers or is getting worse
  • a headache which seems worse when lying down or bending over or
  • an unusual headache that may be accompanied by:
  1. blurred vision, nausea and vomiting
  2. difficulty with your speech
  3. weakness, drowsiness or seizures
  • new, unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain

You can report any suspected side effect using the Coronavirus Yellow Card safety scheme.

Visit the Coronavirus Yellow Card to report a vaccine side effect


What about allergic reactions?

Tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated if you’ve 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
  • a previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine
  • some medicines, household products or cosmetics

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.

Watch COVID-19 vaccine explainer video: If I have allergies, is it still save to have the vaccine?


What are the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients?


Can the vaccine alter your genetic material?

There is no evidence to suggest that your genetic material will undergo an alteration after receiving the vaccine.


What do local people in the Bristol area think about the vaccine?

Bristol City Council’s Race Equality COVID-19 Steering Group recently held a webinar to give residents an opportunity to find out more about how the jab works. Healthcare professionals and experts came together to share information about COVID-19 vaccines, answer residents’ questions and dispel some common myths and misconceptions. Watch a video recording of the vaccine webinar


Pregnancy and breastfeeding


Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect fertility?

There is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility. Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop antibody to the spike and there is no evidence of fertility problems after COVID-19 disease.

For advice on pregnancy refer to the Eligibility section ‘Can I have the vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?’.

Watch COVID-19 vaccine explainer video: Can it affect my fertility?


Can I have the vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

The COVID-19 vaccine is offered to pregnant women at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and JCVI priority group. If they have concerns, women should discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their midwife or healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on their individual circumstances.

  • If you have already had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, you should continue with your second dose.
  • If you are beginning your vaccination course, we will offer you an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca. This is not due to safety concerns around AstraZeneca during pregnancy, there is just more data available for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in  pregnancy.

If you are pregnant, you should book your first dose vaccine with your GP or at Ashton Gate Vaccination Centre, so you can be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca.

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists has published information for healthcare professionals and pregnant women eligible for vaccination, including a leaflet to help you decide whether to have the vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccines available in the UK are effective and have an extremely good safety profile. They do not contain organisms that can multiply in the body, so they cannot infect an unborn baby in the womb.

Women trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination and there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility or breastfeeding.

Read more on COVID-19 vaccination: women of childbearing age, currently pregnant or breastfeeding


Accessibility and the vaccine


COVID-19 vaccine accessibility information event

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Healthwatch held an online event on 10 February 2021 to discuss how the COVID-19 vaccine is being made more accessible for all communities. This includes older less mobile people, disabled people, people with learning disabilities and people with mental health problems and to help people make an informed choice

The event discussed information about the vaccine and how you can book and access your vaccination.

Read a transcript for the accessibility webinar


Learning disability resources

Keepsafe.org.uk is a free resource with lots of helpful video guides on COVID-19 vaccination for people with learning disabilities.


British Sign Language resources


Resources in different languages

Watch and read about the vaccine in various alternative language formats.

GOV.UK has created a number of COVID-19 vaccination information guides in multiple languages.


Effectiveness of the vaccine


How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The MHRA have said this vaccine is highly effective. The first dose of the vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus, but you need to have the second dose to give you full protection which is longer lasting.

After having both doses of the vaccine most people will be protected against coronavirus. There is a small 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.

Watch COVID-19 vaccine explainer video: How a vaccine works

Watch COVID-19 vaccine explainer video: What the data shows so far about the protection given by the vaccine

Watch COVID-19 vaccine explainer video: Should I still follow government guidance after I’ve had my vaccine?


How long does the vaccine take to become effective?

The first dose of the vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus, but to get full protection you need to have the second dose – this is really important.

Full protection kicks in around a week or two after that second dose, which is why it’s also important that when you do get invited, you get yourself booked in as soon as possible.

Watch COVID-19 vaccine explainer video: How important is it to have two doses of the vaccine?


How long will the vaccine be effective for?

We expect these vaccines to work for at least a year – if not longer. This will be constantly monitored.


Were the trial participants reflective of a multi-ethnic population?

The Public Assessment Reports contain all the scientific information about the trials and information on trial participants.

For the Pfizer trial, 9.8% of participants were black, 26.1% Hispanic/Latino and 3.4% Asian.

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca trial, 10.1% of participants were Black and 3.5% Asian.

For the Moderna trial, 19.7% of participants were Hispanic/Latino, and 9.7% African American.


Does the vaccine work on those taking immune suppressants?

Although the vaccine was not tested on those with very serious immunological conditions, the vaccine has been proven to be very effective and it is unlikely that the vaccine will have no effect at all on these individuals.

There may be a very small number of people with very complex or severe immunological problems who can’t make any response at all – but the vaccine should not do any harm to these individuals. If you meet this criteria you may want to discuss the vaccine further with your specialist doctor.

Watch COVID-19 vaccine explainer video: If I am immunosuppressed can I have the vaccine?


Is one better than the other?

All vaccines that are available have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they are given will be highly effective and protect them from coronavirus.


What situations would you go for testing after you have been vaccinated?

If you do experience symptoms of coronavirus more than 4 days following your vaccination such as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste you may have coronavirus. Stay at home and get a test.

Symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) – NHS.UK

The different types of vaccine


Which vaccines for COVID-19 are currently available?

The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses. This includes:

  • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
  • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine

Can I choose which vaccine I would prefer?

Due to the nature of vaccine supply, it is not possible for individuals to choose which vaccine brand they receive.

All vaccines that are available have been approved because they pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever vaccine they are given will be highly effective and protect them from coronavirus.

Following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), we are offering eligible people under 40 who have not yet had their first COVID-19 vaccination, a vaccine other than AZ. You may wish to go ahead with the AZ vaccination after you have considered all the risks and benefits for you.


Can I get a vaccination privately?

No, vaccinations are only available through the NHS. We are currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people who are most at risk from coronavirus. The order in which people are being offered the vaccine is based on advice from the JCVI.

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 license, bills or pay slips.