COVID-19 vaccination questions and answers

Getting vaccinated


Accelerated booster vaccinations

In Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, we are scaling-up booster vaccinations by increasing the capacity of booked appointments at our existing vaccination sites.

Your GP will be in touch to invite you to book an appointment for your COVID booster, or you can book an appointment using the online National Booking Service, or by calling 119. Some of our clinics also have a local booking system.

You can find up to date information for all the options in our area, below.

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 booster vaccines. Please visit our information page for full list of eligibility.


COVID-19 Booster Vaccinations

Why are some people being asked to have a COVID-19 booster vaccine?

Vaccines give high levels of protection but immunity reduces over time, particularly for older adults and at-risk groups, so it is vital that vulnerable people come forward to get their COVID-19 booster vaccine to top-up their defences and protect themselves this winter.

The latest evidence from SAGE shows that protection against symptomatic disease falls from 65%, up to three months after the second dose, to 45% six months after the second dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and from 90% to 65% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Protection against hospitalisation falls from 95% to 75% for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 99% to 90% for Pfizer/BioNTech.

Although the vaccine effectiveness against severe disease remains high, a small change can generate a major shift in hospital admissions. For example, a change from 95% to 90% protection against hospitalisation would lead to doubling of admissions in those vaccinated.

The booster programme is designed to top up this waning immunity. Early results from Pfizer show that a booster following a primary schedule of the same vaccine restores protection back up to 95.6% against symptomatic infection.

Who is eligible for a booster vaccination?

Everyone aged over 16 and all those most at risk from COVID should have a COVID-19 booster vaccination 3 months (91 days) after their second primary dose. This includes:

  • people aged 16 and over
  • people who live and work in care homes
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • children aged 12-15 with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • children aged 12-15 who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • People who are pregnant and in 1 of the eligible groups

How do I access my booster vaccination?

If you’re eligible for a COVID-19 booster and it is 3 months (91 days) after your second dose, you can have your booster in one of the following ways:

  • Book an appointment at a vaccination centre or pharmacy using the online National Booking Service or by calling 119 (if you have been invited by a letter from the national NHS).
  • Go to a walk-in vaccination site to get vaccinated without needing an appointment. You can find a list of walk-in centres in our area offering boosters here.
  • Wait to be contacted by a your GP surgery and book an appointment with them.
  • If you use the National Booking Service you are now able to pre-book your booster appointment 2 months (61 days) after your second dose.  However, the date of your appointment will be at least 3 months (91 days) after your second dose.

Vaccinating children

What is the 12 to 15 year old COVID-19 vaccination programme?

All children aged 12 to 15 are eligible for 2 doses of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine (the new name for the Pfizer vaccine), alongside a nasal flu vaccine. The aim is to reduce flu and COVID-19 levels in circulation this winter, to minimise disruption to schooling and to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 within schools and families.

While COVID-19 is usually mild in most children and young people, it can be very unpleasant for some and two doses of the vaccine will provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation. The vaccine will reduce disruption to education, which is good for children’s welfare and mental health.

Some children aged 12 to 15 years are eligible for a booster dose if either they live with someone who has a weakened immune system or, they have a condition which puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. You can read more about eligibility for the booster dose here.

Eligible children aged 12 to 15 can attend a walk-in vaccination site to have their booster or wait to be contacted by a local NHS service.

If they prefer to attend a walk-in site, they will need to bring a letter, text or email inviting them for their booster dose or a letter from their GP or hospital specialist about their condition.

If they are a household contact of someone who has a weakened immune system, they will need to bring the letter, text or email inviting them to get their booster dose, or a letter from the GP or hospital specialist of the person they live with confirming that anyone they live with should get a booster dose.

Please check the ‘Children and Young People’ section on grabajab.net for walk-in sites in our area which are currently offering booster doses for children aged 12 to 15.

Our 12 to 15 year programme is being delivered by a small, highly trained team who are and working extremely hard to deliver vaccinations across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG). Please be kind and patient. We will continue to offer vaccinations for children in this age group as long as there is demand.

12 to 15 year old children at risk of COVID-19 

Children and young people aged 12 to 15 with specific underlying health conditions who are at higher risk from COVID-19 are being offered:

  • 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine
  • Their second dose will be at least 8 weeks after their first.
  • They will be vaccinated at GP-led clinics and
  • your GP will be in touch if your child is eligible.

A full list of conditions can be found here.

Children and young people aged 12 to 15 who are household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed are being offered:

  • 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine
  • Their second dose will be at least 12 weeks after their first.
  • The person with a weakened immune system will be contacted by their GP with details of how to make an appointment at a GP-run clinic for young people in this position.

More information on vaccinating children and young people can be found here.

Children and young people aged 12 to 15 who are severely immunosuppressed are being offered:

  • 3 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, 8 weeks apart, at GP-run clinics.
  • Your GP or consultant will be in touch to invite you for your third dose.

Children is in this position may have their first dose at a school-clinic and will then be signposted to a GP-led clinic for their second or third dose. Alternatively, they will be contacted by their GP or consultant to arrange their vaccinations.

Where can I get more information on the COVID-19 vaccine?

This NHS webpage provides more information for parents and children on the vaccine, including how it works and what to expect after COVID-19 vaccination.

The same page includes accessible versions of the consent form and leaflets available for those with a learning disability or who live with autism. Braille and British Sign Language (BSL) videos can be ordered or downloaded, and translations are also available.

If you are unsure about whether to consent to your child having the vaccine, we recommend that you do your own research using trusted sources of information. Below are links to some reliable resources that you may find helpful.

How are children aged 12 to 15 being offered the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Our School Immunisation Team has now visited all the schools in our area to run COVID-19 and flu vaccination clinics for 12 to 15 year olds. Some children were not able to be vaccinated due to time constraints, absence or being within 12 weeks of a positive COVID test. To give all 12 to 15 year olds the opportunity to have the COVID-19 vaccine, we are running dedicated bookable clinics at the Vaccination Centre @ UWE Bristol and some GP-clinics, for children who were not able to be vaccinated at school.

You can book an appointment for your child using the online National Booking Service (NBS) or by calling 119.

We have also been informed that the NBS is being updated to allow children who recently had their 12th birthday and are therefore now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, to book an appointment. If your child is in this position, please keep trying as we have been told to expect the update, soon.

If my child has had COVID-19 do they still need to have a vaccine?

Yes. It is still important to have a vaccine to generate a stronger, longer-lasting immune system response to COVID-19. If your child has had coronavirus, their vaccination should take place at least 12 weeks after their positive COVID-19 test result.

If this means your child misses the opportunity to be vaccinated at their school-based clinic, you can book an appointment at a 12 to 15 year old vaccination clinic using the online National Booking Service or by calling 119.

How will the school-based vaccination programme be rolled-out?

Parents/carers of 12 to 15 year olds will be sent information about both the COVID-19 and flu vaccinations by their child’s school 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 you will be asked whether or not you agree to your child having each vaccine.

If you 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.

Younger children, in primary school and Year 7, will be offered the nasal flu vaccine through their school. This programme will be completed by the end of January.

My child is home educated or does not attend school. How can they be vaccinated?

If your child is home educated, you can book an appointment for them using the online National Booking Service or calling 119. If you do not see an appointment in our area, please keep trying as we are adding new clinics regularly.

My child was not able to be vaccinated when their school clinic happened. How can they be vaccinated?

There are a number of reason why your child may not have been able to be vaccinated at their school clinic, such as time/resource constraints of the vaccination team, being absent due to illness or being within 12 weeks of a positive COVID-19 test.

If your child was not able to be vaccinated at their school clinic for any reason, you can book an appointment at a 12 to 15 year old vaccination clinic using the online National Booking Service or by calling 119. If you live in Bristol, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire, your child will also be offered their nasal flu vaccine at the same clinic.

We are unable to vaccinate anyone within 12 weeks (48 days) of a positive COVID-19 test which means there are likely to be children in every school who are unable to be vaccinated when their school-based clinic takes place. If they have tested positive for COVID-19, they must wait 12 weeks (48 days) after their positive COVID test result to be vaccinated.

My child is scared of needles but wants to have the vaccine.

All our vaccinators are highly trained and used to giving immunisations to children. If your child is worried about having the injection, please ask them to let the vaccination team know and they will be given additional support.

You may prefer to book an appointment for your child at a 12 to 15 year old clinic using the online National Booking System or by calling 119, rather than having them vaccinated in a school setting. This would mean you could be with them during their vaccination and it might be a calmer environment for your child than a school clinic.

I don’t want my child to have the nasal flu vaccine because of the porcine gelatine content. Is there an alternative?

The flu nasal spray contains very small amounts of porcine gelatine, which is used as a stabiliser in the vaccine. Some people may not accept the use of porcine gelatine in medical products. For these children, there is an alternative vaccine available which is given by injection to the upper arm. If you would like your child to have this vaccine, please contact sirona.sch-imms@nhs.net.

If a young person has allergies can they have the vaccination?

There are very few young people who cannot receive the vaccine. All young people and their parents or carers should consult their clinician if they have concerns regarding allergies and COVID-19 vaccination.

Is it safe for children to have the COVID-19 vaccine?

The medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has confirmed the Comirnaty (the new name for the Pfizer) vaccine is safe and effective for 12 to 17 year olds. This followed a rigorous review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group.

The Pfizer vaccine has been given to millions of 12 to 15 year olds in a number of countries, including 8 million in the United States. Data from these countries shows that the vaccine has a good safety record. More information on vaccinating children and young people can be found here.

Why are 12 to 15 year olds being offered two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?

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

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. Read more about Gillick competency here.


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 www.grabajab.net 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 bnssg.massvaccination@nhs.net 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 www.grabajab.net. 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.

Eligibility


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 a 1st dose, 2nd dose or a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

You can have your booster COVID-19 vaccine 12 weeks or more after your second dose. If you’ve have had a COVID-19 infection at any time after having your second dose, you should have the booster vaccine dose 12 weeks or more after the COVID-19 infection.

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. Your GP surgery will also contact you to book an appointment.

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. More information on vaccinating children and young people can be found here.

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.

All eligible adults can now book their life-saving booster jab two months (61 days) after their second dose using the NHS national booking system (NBS), getting their top-up in protection three months (91 days) on from their second dose.

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.

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.

Our COVID-19 vaccination programme is running alongside the vital winter flu vaccination campaign. If you are eligible for a COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine, please take up the offer as soon as possible rather than waiting to have them together.


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.


Do I need to register with a GP?

You do not need to be registered with a GP to have your Covid or flu vaccination, but GP surgeries are usually the first contact if you have a health problem. They can treat many conditions and give health advice. They can also refer you to other NHS services.

Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It’s free to register. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

Use this link to find a GP in your area.

Because of coronavirus (COVID-19), try to avoid going into a GP surgery to register. You can:

  • check the GP surgery website to see if you can register online
  • call or email the GP surgery and ask to be registered as a patient

You do not need proof of ID to register with a GP, but it might help if you have one or more of the following:

  • passport
  • birth certificate
  • HC2 certificate
  • rough sleeper’s identity badge
  • hostel or accommodation registration or mail forwarding letter

If you’re homeless, you can give a temporary address, such as a friend’s address, a day centre or the GP surgery address.

If you need help registering or filling in forms, call the GP surgery and let them know. You could also ask for help from:

  • local organisations – for example if you’re homeless you could ask a centre that supports homeless people
  • Citizens Advice
  • your local Healthwatch

If you have had COVID-19


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

If you are age 18 or over and 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.

If you are between the ages of 12-17, not at serious risk of illness, and you get infected with COVID-19 before you are due your vaccine, please make sure to get a lab-confirmed PCR test for Coronavirus. If the test results are positive, you need to wait 12 weeks after your test result before you can have your COVID-19 vaccine.

If you are between the ages of 12-17 and at higher risk i.e. (with underlying conditions, unpaid carer, household contact of immunosuppressed, or a health and social care worker), you need to wait 4 weeks after receiving a positive lab-confirmed PCR test before you can have your COVID-19 vaccine.

Why do I need to wait to have a vaccine after a COVID-19 infection?


In younger people, protection from COVID-19 infection is likely to be high for a period of months. Having your vaccine soon after a COVID-19 infection may increase the chance of side effects.

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.

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

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?

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
  • Moderna vaccine
  • AstraZeneca vaccine

Please note: the AstraZeneca vaccine is available for first and second doses and for boosters only in exceptional circumstances, for example, if you are allergic to constituent parts of other vaccines.


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.

NHS COVID Pass

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.

Vaccination appointments in North Somerset

If you need help to get to your appointment, there are lots of organisations in North Somerset that can help with transport.  Please see the list of community transport providers below and find more details here.

Portishead Porters – If you need to book this service, please contact Portishead medical centre.

Chew Valley Community Transport: 01275 333 430

Weston and District Community Transport: 01934 644 373

Nailsea and District Community Transport: 01275 855 552

Backwell Backstops – To request transport contact Backwell surgery.

Weston Wheels: 01934 629 657

Nailsea Availables – If you need to book this service, please contact Nailsea surgery.

Congresbury Carers: 01934 834 663

Wrington Helpline: 07092 983 064

Gordano Community Cars: 01275 375 461

Clevedon Care: 01275 343 677

Yatton and District Carers: 01934 835 961

Winscombe Contact Scheme: 07888 812 398

Banwell Fish Car Scheme: 01934 823 749

Failand Volunteer Drivers: 01275 393 888

Sandford Helpline:  01934 822 030