COVID-19 vaccine concerns

If you are concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine, the information on this page addresses common questions around vaccine safety, side effects, pregnancy, what’s in the vaccine and needle fears.

For more information about vaccination in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire visit our COVID-19 section.

Vaccine safety

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK are AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna. They have been rigorously tested and meet strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The MHRA follows international standards of safety and any coronavirus vaccine must go through all the same clinical trials and safety checks other licensed medicines go through. Other COVID-19 vaccines being developed; they will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective. Hundreds of millions of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as blood clots and allergic reactions are extremely rare.

How were the vaccines made so fast?

The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK – AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – have been through the same three stages of clinical trials that every vaccine goes through.

They were tested on tens of thousands of people around the world and to speed up development of COVID-19 vaccines, the three trial phases were organised to overlap. Production of promising vaccines also started before the trials ended, which helped speed up delivery time.

No corners were cut in trialling the vaccines and ensuring they met strict standards of safety and effectiveness.

I’m worried about the AstraZeneca vaccine causing bloodclots

An extremely rare condition involving specific blood clots with lowered platelets, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), is seen slightly more often in people after having the AstraZeneca vaccine. Around 13 people develop this condition for every million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine given and it occurs slightly more often in younger people. CVST can also occur naturally and clotting problems are a common complication of COVID-19 infection.

As a precaution, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), we are offering people under 40 who are having their first COVID-19 vaccination, an alternative to AstraZeneca. For people in older age groups, the benefits of prompt vaccination with AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh the risks from COVID.

Over 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been given in the UK and the vaccine has saved thousands of lives. The risks from COVID-19 are much higher than the risks from the vaccine. For example, data shows that for every 100,000 40-49 year olds who contract COVID-19, 5.5 people will need Intensive Care treatment compared to 0.5 people who may experience harm from the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Is the vaccine safe for people from minority ethnic communties?

The vaccines in use currently across the UK were tested across a broad range of groups and were shown to have consistent efficacy across age, gender and ethnicity. Find out more in the ‘Getting Vaccinated’ section of our COVID-19 vaccine questions and answers page.

Side effects

I’m worried that side effects from having the vaccine will mean I have to miss work

Some people do feel unwell after having the vaccine, but most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week. They may include:

  • a sore arm
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to. If you are worried that side effects may mean you need to take time off work, you could book your vaccination for a day and time that allows you to rest, if you need to.

If you have a high temperature following your vaccine, you may have coronavirus or another infection. If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.

If I’ve had the A/Z vaccine, what serious 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:
    • 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

Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

I’m worried that the COVID-19 vaccine will affect my fertility?

There have been a lot of rumours that the vaccines could affect fertility but these are not true. Here’s why:

  • There is no scientific process by which the vaccines could affect women’s fertility.
  • Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines teach your body to fight the disease and to develop antibodies to do this. They do not have any ingredients that would affect fertility and the components leave the body within a few days.
  • Claims of any effect of Covid-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data, for example, there is no evidence to support the theory that immunity to the spike protein could lead to fertility problems.
  • Most people who contract COVID-19 will develop the same antibodies that you get from the vaccine and there is no evidence of fertility problems after having had COVID-19.
  • Many women who have had the COVID-19 vaccine have gone on to become pregnant.

It is standard practice for new medicines not to be recommended for pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy when they are first issued. Now that more data is available, the independent body responsible for assessing the safety of vaccines (the Joint Committee for Vaccinations & Immunisations) has updated its advice and says there is no need for women to delay pregnancy after having the vaccine.

British Fertility Society: BFS & ARCS Covid-19 Vaccines & Fertility – British Fertility Society | BFS

Royal Collect of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists: Coronavirus (COVID-19), pregnancy and women’s health (rcog.org.uk)

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 priority group. If you have concerns, you should discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with your midwife or healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on your 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 our Vaccination Centre @ UWE so you can be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca.

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:

Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists: Coronavirus (COVID-19), pregnancy and women’s health (rcog.org.uk)

What’s in the vaccine

What ingredients are in the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients?

The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any animal products or egg.

Video: Do the vaccine’s contain any pork products?

Video: How do I know it is safe?

Watch Bristol GP, Dr. Geeta Iyer answer concerns on the vaccine’s safety

Can I have the vaccine if I have allergies?

If you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction, it’s important that you tell healthcare staff before you are vaccinated. You will be asked about previous reactions when you arrive for your appointment.

You should not have the COVID-19 vaccine if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the same vaccine or any of the ingredients in the vaccine.

Does the vaccine have a microchip in it?

No. The origin of this myth is a video that was shared on social media that claimed the vaccine would contain a tracking microchip. This is not true.

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.

I’m worried about having the injection, rather than the vaccine

I don’t like needles and am worried about having an injection

Many people fear injections to some extent. It’s completely normal and our clinical staff and vaccinators are very used to it – please don’t feel embarrassed.

If you are worried about having your injection, let our team know when you arrive for your vaccination. They are trained to help people who are apprehensive, nervous or anxious and can provide you with extra support.

Most people who are nervous and go on to have the vaccine say that they didn’t feel the injection.

Disliking or having a fear of injections is not the same as having a diagnosed needle phobia, which is a recognised condition that results in an acute anxiety response to the thought of an injection.

I’m worried that I may faint or panic when I have my vaccination

Please don’t feel embarrassed. These types of responses are common and our vaccinators and staff are trained to support people who need extra help to be vaccinated. If you are worried about having your vaccine and have fainted or felt anxious when having an injection, in the past, please let someone at the clinic know when you arrive for your vaccination.

Is there anything I can do before my vaccination to help manage my anxiety?

There are techniques you can practice at home before you have your vaccination, that may help manage your feelings of anxiety about needles and having injections. Below are links to some trusted resources explaining techniques that you may find helpful.

Overcoming your fear of needles

What are the signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder?

Watch Bristol GP, Dr. Geeta Iyer talk about how to manage feeling anxious about the vaccine