COVID-19 vaccination questions and answers

Getting vaccinated

Who can have the Covid-19 vaccine?

The lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine is now available, free of charge, to everyone aged 12 and over in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG). We are also offering a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to people who are immunosuppressed and a COVID-19 booster to enhance protection for those at greatest risk from covonavirus, this winter.

Our COVID-19 vaccination programme is running alongside the vital winter flu vaccination campaign and where possible, the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine will be given at the same time. If you are eligible for both vaccinations, please take up the offer as soon as possible rather than waiting to have them together.

In BNSSG we are following national guidance on who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and boosters. Please visit our information page for full list of who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and boosters.

Vaccinating children

How will school-based immunisations for 12 to 15-year-olds be rolled out?

In autumn 2021, all children aged 12 to 15 in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) will be offered both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine. The flu vaccination programme already includes all children in primary schools and is being expanded this year to include older children. Children aged 12-15 will also be offered one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.

This significant expansion in the school immunisation programme is part of the government’s wider winter planning to reduce flu levels in the population, and therefore the potential impact on the NHS, when we are likely to see both flu and coronavirus (COVID-19) in circulation. In our area, the School Immunisation Service is provided by Sirona care & health.

Most vaccinations will be given in a school setting and we will also provide community clinics for young people who are unable to attend school-based clinics. Parents/carers will be sent information about both vaccinations by their child’s school or local authority which will include a link to an online consent portal. The consent portal has separate consent forms for the flu and COVID-19 vaccines and parents/carers will be asked whether or not they agree to their child having each vaccine. Paper copies of the consent forms will also be available.

If parents/carers consent to both vaccines, they will be given at the same time. The flu vaccine is administered using a nasal spray, while the COVID-19 vaccine will be given with an injection to a child’s upper arm.

What are the timescales of the 12 to 15-year-old vaccination programme?

Our local programme will begin in the week of 20 September 2021 with vaccinations in Special Schools and then rolled out in Secondary schools. We expect to have completed the programme before the end of the Autumn Term.

What happens if my child is unwell on the day of the vaccination clinic at their school?

We will be holding a series of community clinics for 12 to 15-year-olds. Anyone who is unable to attend the vaccination session at their school will be able to have the COVID-19 and/or flu in one of these clinics. We will provide information about how to book an appointment nearer the time.

What type of COVID vaccine will be given to children?

In our area, we will be using the Comirnaty vaccine (the new name for Pfizer) for children aged 12 to 15 and they will be given one dose. If a second dose is recommended in future, parents/carers will be asked to complete another consent form.

What if a parent objects to the intranasal flu vaccine (LAIV) on grounds of porcine gelatine content?

If a parent objects to having the flu vaccine on the grounds of the porcine gelatine content, an alternative flu vaccine will be offered via the School Immunisation Service, which would be given by an injection to the upper arm.

Why are 12 to 15-year-olds only being offered one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

For most children and young people COVID-19 is usually a milder illness that rarely leads to complications. Given the lower risk of illness for this age group, the Chief Medical Officers have recommended one dose is sufficient and gives a good level of protection for the child, and their family and friends.

As flu and COVID vaccines are being co-administered is there a risk my child could be given the wrong vaccine?

The flu and COVID-19 vaccinations will have separate consent forms. Although the vaccines will be administered at the same time, the flu vaccine is given to children as a nasal spray while the COVID vaccine is given as an injection in the upper arm, so there is no possibility of the vaccines being confused.

What happens if parent/carers don’t give consent but their child wants to have the flu or COVID-19 vaccine?

No child will be vaccinated within a school setting without consent from their parent or carer.

If a child aged 12 to 15 expresses that they would like to have the COVID or flu vaccination and their parent/carer has refused consent or not replied to the consent request, a phone call will be made to the parent/carer to discuss consent. If parents or carers will not give consent, and the child wishes to have the vaccine, the child and parents will be invited to a clinic to discuss their circumstances with a clinician.

Children under the age of 16 can consent to their own treatment if they’re believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment. This is known as being Gillick competent.

How is the COVID-19 vaccine given?

The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm given as 2 doses, between 8 and 12 weeks apart.

What do I need to know before my appointment?

Before you leave for your appointment, please remember to eat and drink, especially if you have a morning appointment. If you are attending a walk-in clinic, please check the details on before you leave to ensure nothing has changed and that they offer the vaccine type you need, particularly if you are having your second dose.

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 a community pharmacy vaccination site or the vaccination centre @ UWE
  • 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 between 20 and 45 minutes.

When you arrive, 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 number.

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

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

Watch Bristol GP, Dr. Geeta Iyer explain what to expect on the day of your vaccine

What happens after my vaccination?

Depending on the type of vaccine you have, you may be asked to wait for 15 minutes afterwards. This is in case of the extremely unlikely event you have a serious reaction to the vaccine. It is very rare to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine. If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes. Our teams are trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

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

Is it safe to bring my second dose forward? I thought 12 weeks was the optimum gap?

The change follows updated advice from the independent experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. The decision has been taken in response to a more transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 to ensure people across the UK have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity.

The initial 12-week timeframe was put in place so that as many people as possible on the JCVI priority list could have their first dose of vaccine quickly.

Can I have my second vaccination sooner than 8 weeks?

In Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire we are following national guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on the length of time between doses of all COVID-19 vaccines. This is currently an 8-week interval.

The only exception to the 8-week interval is people who are about to begin immunosuppressive treatment. These people will be known to their GP who can arrange for them to have their vaccine at an earlier date.

Please do not attend a walk-in clinic if your first dose was less than 8 weeks ago.

If you have clinical circumstances that you think mean you may be eligible to have your second dose sooner than 8 weeks, please email describing your circumstances and a clinician will review your case.

I’m 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. Alternatively, you can find a walk-in clinic in our area on Please make sure the walk-in clinic offers the same vaccine type as your first dose.

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

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

We are aware that there are some fraudulent text messages and emails circulating linked to the COVID-19 vaccination and vaccine passports. 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

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

You do not have to be registered with a GP, have an NHS number or be documented in order to have your vaccination; however, you will not be able to book an appointment using the National Booking Service. If you are in this position, please attend a walk-in clinic or contact a GP to book your vaccination, and explain your situation.

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. You do not have to be documented to register with a GP and registering means you will have access to other health services.

NHS.UK: How to register with a GP

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

We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be hesitant about having the vaccine. We are collaborating with community, faith and voluntary organisations to ensure vaccine messages reach as diverse an audience as possible and are tailored to meet everyone’s needs.

This includes engagement with, and being led by, 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. 

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

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

Our clinics are carefully planned to ensure that all the vaccine is used. Inevitably, there are occasions when people are unable to attend their appointment and we have systems in place to prevent this from happening. This includes preparing the smallest quantity of vaccine possible towards the end of a clinic to avoid wastage.


Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination?

The lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine is now available, free of charge, to everyone aged 12 and over in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG).

Children aged 12 to 15 years are being offered 1 dose of COVID-19 vaccine alongside a nasal flu vaccine through the School-based Immunisation Programme.

Children and young people aged 12 to 15 who are severely immunosuppressed are being offered 3 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at GP-run clinics. Your GP or consultant will be in touch to invite you for your third dose.

Young people aged 16 and 17 are being offered their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. You can attend most walk-in clinics in our area without making an appointment or you can book an appointment on the online National Booking Service or by calling 119.

A full list of all walk-in clinics can be found here. Please check the clinic you plan to attend can vaccinate your age group.

Everyone aged 18 and older is eligible for 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. You can attend any walk-in clinic in our area or book an appointment on the online National Booking Service or by calling 119.

You do not have to be registered with a GP, have an NHS number, or be documented in order to have your vaccination. If you are in this position, please attend a walk-in clinic or contact a GP to book your vaccination, and explain your situation.

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 having 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 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.

The offer of vaccination will soon be extended to include children aged 12-15 who are household contacts of people who are severely immunosuppressed.

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. You do not have to be registered with a GP, have an NHS number or be documented in order to have your vaccination. If you are in this position, please attend a walk-in clinic or contact a GP to book your vaccination, and explain your situation. You can find a full list of walk-in clinics here.

Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, are eligible for and 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. If you are in this position, please attend a local walk-in clinic or contact a GP and explain your situation.

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.

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, 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 AstraZeneca 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
  • an unusual headache that may be accompanied by: blurred vision, nausea and vomiting; difficulty with your speech; 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 effects 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?

No. The vaccine uses a fragment of the virus’s genetic material but this cannot make any change to the DNA of a human cell.

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

Bristol City Council’s Race Equality COVID-19 Steering Group 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’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant. There’s no need to avoid getting pregnant after being vaccinated.

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

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

Vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended in pregnancy. Studies have shown that hospital admission and severe illness from COVID-19 are more common in pregnant women (compared to those not pregnant), especially those in the third trimester of pregnancy, and that stillbirth and preterm birth is more likely (compared to pregnant women without COVID-19).

COVID-19 vaccines do not contain live coronavirus or any additional ingredients that are harmful to pregnant women or their babies. Other non-live vaccines (whooping cough and influenza) are safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies

  • If you are pregnant and 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 having the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in pregnancy.

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.

Below are links to information from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists to help you make an informed choice about whether to have the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy. You can also discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with your midwife or healthcare professional.

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.

Watch Bristol GP, Dr. Geeta Iyer answer common questions on fertility and the vaccine

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 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?

Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows our vaccines are highly effective against all variants of COVID-19. After two doses, the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective and the AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation from COVID-19.  PHE estimates that the vaccination programme in England has prevented 22 million infections, around 52,600 hospitalisations and between 35,200 and 60,000 deaths.

It is important to have your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in order to have the strongest possible protection from coronavirus.

After having both doses of the vaccine most people will be protected against coronavirus. There is a small chance you might still catch or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine. This means it is important to:

  • meet people outside if possible
  • open doors and windows to let in fresh air if meeting people inside
  • limit the number of people you meet and avoid crowded places
  • wear a face covering when it’s hard to stay away from other people – particularly indoors or in crowded places
  • wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day

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

How long does the vaccine take to become effective?

Both doses of the vaccine take effect approximately two weeks after being vaccinated. The first dose of the vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus, but to get the best protection possible, you need to have the second dose – this is really important.

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?

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?

In the UK, we are currently using three different vaccine types which are all given as 2 doses, 8 weeks apart. They are:

  • Pfizer vaccine
  • AstraZeneca vaccine
  • 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.


What is the NHS COVID Pass?

The NHS COVID Pass lets you share your COVID-19 vaccination records or status in a secure way.

Why do I need it?

  • You may be asked to show your NHS COVID Pass to travel abroad, or at events and venues in England asking for proof of your COVID-19 status.
  • Please visit this page for more information about the NHS Covid Pass and how to access it.