FAQs

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and give you the best protection against coronavirus. Getting fully vaccinated is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against coronavirus.

The first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine offers a high level of protection, but to get maximum and longer-lasting protection, the second jab is vital. The COVID-19 booster is an additional vaccine dose for people who are the most likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 and who have previously received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Our FAQs provide you with the answers to our most frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccination.

The NHS Vaccine Facts website also answers common questions South East Londoners have had about the COVID vaccine, and what happened when local people had the jab.

To watch back our Live Q&As on vaccination for 12-17 year olds and parents expecting a baby, and a wealth of information and local case studies, you can also head to nhsselvax.com.

The NHS is offering the COVID-19 vaccines to people most at risk from coronavirus. You can get vaccinated if:

  • you’re aged 12 and over
  • you’re at high risk from COVID-19 (clinically extremely vulnerable)
  • you have a condition that puts you at higher risk (clinically vulnerable)
  • you have a learning disability
  • you’re a frontline health or social care worker
  • you get a Carer’s Allowance, get support following an assessment by your local authority or your GP record shows you’re a carer

If you’re an eligible unpaid carer but you cannot book an appointment, speak to your GP surgery.

If you’ve been invited to book because you’re turning 18 soon, please book your 1st dose vaccination on or after your 18th birthday.

You do not need to be registered with a GP, have an NHS number or proof of immigration status or address to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Anyone in the UK can choose to register with a GP. Your GP can help you to access healthcare services.

If you don’t have an NHS number you can contact your local GP surgery to organise the vaccine and register there too if you want, or you can attend a COVID-19 vaccination walk-in centre.

Find out more about who can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Book your COVID-19 vaccination appointments online.

Find Walk-In vaccination centres near you in south-east London

All children aged 12 to 15 will be offered a 1st dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Parents and guardians will get a letter with information about when the vaccine will be offered. Your local school vaccination service will be in touch to arrange a date.

12-15 year olds can also access the COVID-19 vaccine at one of our walk-in services, or by booking online.

Type of vaccine offered

Children will be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is the vaccine approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for children and young people over 12 years of age. This follows a thorough review of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group.

The consent process

All parents or those with parental responsibility are asked for consent and will usually make this decision, jointly with their children.

In secondary schools, some older children may be sufficiently mature to provide their own consent. This sometimes occurs if a parent has not returned a consent form but the child still wishes to have the vaccine on the day of the session. Every effort will be made to contact the parent to seek their verbal consent. The school has no role in this process.

This is a well-established process which is used in other school-based vaccination programmes.

The vaccination is not mandatory.

Useful resources for more information

12-15 year olds can also access the COVID-19 vaccine at one of our walk-in services, or by booking online.

There are 3 main ways to get a COVID-19 vaccine:

  • book online now for appointments at a vaccination centre or a pharmacy
  • go to one of our walk-in vaccination centres without needing to book
  • wait to be contacted by your GP surgery and book your appointments with them

Depending on your age and clinical vulnerability, your options will be different:

  • 12-15 year olds (first dose only) – vaccinations will be given from autumn term and your local school vaccination service will be in touch to arrange a date. 12-15 year olds can also access the COVID-19 vaccine at one of our walk-in services, or by booking online.
  • 16-39 (first and second doses) – if you are in this age category, you can get vaccinated at a local walk-in service, or by booking online – you do not need to wait to be contacted
  • 40+ and those at higher risk from COVID-19 (first, second and booster doses)if you are eligible for a booster vaccine, you will contacted (you’ll be offered a booster dose at least 6 months after your second dose). If you are eligible and have not yet been contacted, you can book your COVID-19 booster dose online if it’s been 5 months (152 days) since you had your 2nd dose. Alternatively, you can also get your booster dose at a walk-in clinic.
  • Those eligible for a third primary dose – anyone over 12 who was severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second dose will be invited by their specialist or GP practice – you must wait to be contacted.

If you are eligible to book your appointments online, you can view, cancel or rebook them if you need to. Book or manage your COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

If you are eligible to book online but you’re having difficulties, you can call 119 free of charge. You can speak to a translator if you need to.

If you have difficulties communicating or hearing, or are a British Sign Language (BSL) user, you can use textphone 18001 119 or the NHS 119 BSL interpreter service.

You do not need an appointment to attend a walk-in vaccination clinic. You do not need to be registered with a GP, have an NHS number or proof of immigration status or address to attend a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

We have lots of pop-up and walk-in vaccination clinics across south east London, with new clinics being added every day.

You do not need an appointment to attend a walk-in vaccination clinic. 12-15 year olds, and those eligible for booster jabs, can also access the COVID-19 vaccine at one of our walk-in services, or by booking online.

You do not need to be registered with a GP, have an NHS number or proof of immigration status or address to attend a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Depending on your age and clinical vulnerability, the way you will be contacted will be different. Please see the question – ‘How do I book my vaccination?’ for more information. Alternatively, you can also head to NHS.UK for the latest information.

If you are registered with a GP you may receive a text from ‘NHSvaccine’ inviting you to book your vaccination appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy. The text will be sent to the phone number your GP surgery has listed for you.

You may also get a letter a few days after.

If you receive a text from ‘NHSvaccine’ inviting you to book and you’re not sure if it is genuine, you can wait to receive your letter.

Texts from ‘NHSvaccine’ are separate to any invites you may get from local NHS services such as a GP surgery or hospital.

If you’re invited to book a vaccination at a local NHS service, you’ll usually get a text or a phone call. You may sometimes get a letter.

You can choose to book your vaccination appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy, or wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service. More places are opening all the time.

If you have received a letter or text but not booked an appointment

You may get a follow-up phone call from the NHS Immunisation Management Service. This call will be from 0300 561 0240.

They will see if you need any help or support with your booking.

You may also get a text from ‘NHSvaccine’ reminding you to book a vaccination appointment.

How do I know the text or letter I get isn’t a scam?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge on the NHS.

The NHS will never ask for:

  • your bank account or card details
  • your pin or banking password
  • copies of personal documents to prove your identity such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips

If you think you have been a victim of fraud or identify theft, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

No. If you haven’t booked your first vaccination yet, you still can. The offer of the COVID-19 vaccination is evergreen.

As well as being able to book an appointment at one of our many vaccination clinics online or by calling 119, you can visit one of our walk-in vaccination clinics across south east London.

You do not need an appointment for these walk-in clinics.

Current national guidance is that you must have a gap of 8 weeks or more between the first and second dose for everyone aged 18 or over. 16/17s can also get a second dose, and they must have a gap of 12 weeks between doses. Two doses gives you the maximum protection against known variants and reduces the risk of hospitalisation.

You can also rearrange your appointment the National Booking Service – www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination

The National Booking Service has been updated so you can see available slots before cancelling your existing second appointment. Previously you had to cancel your existing appointment before being able to see availability.

If you cannot use the NHS website, you can phone 119 free of charge. The line is open from 7am to 11pm, 7 days a week.

A coronavirus (COVID-19) booster vaccine dose helps improve the protection you have from your first 2 doses of the vaccine.

If you are over 40, a health and social care worker, or one of the higher risk groups on this NHS.UK list, you will be offered a booster dose at least 6 months after your second dose.

The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have a booster dose. It’s important not to contact the NHS for one before then.

Most people will be invited to book an appointment at a larger vaccination centre, pharmacy, or local NHS service such as a GP surgery.

Frontline health and social care workers will be invited to book an appointment through their employer.

Book online if you’ve been contacted

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that a third dose of the vaccine should be offered to people aged 12 years and over who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second dose, for example because they have leukaemia, advanced HIV or are receiving or have received immunosuppressive therapy for a solid organ transplant in the previous six months. These patients may not mount a full response to vaccination and therefore may be less protected than the wider population.

The NHS have asked all specialists working in hospital as well as all GP practices to identify individuals they care for who are eligible under the JCVI’s definition, due to severe immunosuppression at the time of receiving their first or second dose of the vaccine.

If your GP practice is currently part of a GP-led vaccination hub which is delivering COVID-19 vaccines, you will be invited by your GP Practice to attend your third vaccination appointment.

If your GP practice is not currently part of a GP-led vaccination hub, they will share your details with the Clinical Commissioning Group so that our teams can arrange for you to be offered an appointment at another vaccination site.

The COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK are:

  • Moderna vaccine
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
  • Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • Janssen vaccine (available later this year)

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

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

For example:

  • If you’re pregnant or under 40 you’ll usually be offered appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines
  • If you’re under 18, you’ll only be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • Those offered a booster dose will likely receive the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine (meaning your booster dose may be different from the vaccine you received for your first or second dose)
  • For those eligible for a third primary dose, JCVI advises a preference for mRNA vaccines with the option of the AstraZeneca vaccine for individuals who have received this vaccine previously where this would facilitate delivery

You should have the same vaccine for your first and second dose, unless you had serious side effects (such as a serious allergic reaction) after your 1st dose.

Anyone who gets COVID-19 can become seriously ill or have long-term effects (long COVID). The COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others.

Research has shown the vaccines help:

  • reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19
  • reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19
  • protect against COVID-19 variants

The 1st dose should give you some protection from 3 or 4 weeks after you’ve had it. But you need 2 doses for stronger and longer-lasting protection.

Current national guidance is that you must have a gap of 8 weeks or more between the first and second dose for everyone aged 18 or over. Two doses gives you the maximum protection against known variants and reduces the risk of hospitalisation.

If eligible, you may also be offered a third primary dose, or a booster dose.

There is a chance you might still get or spread COVID-19 even if you have a vaccine, so it’s important to continue to follow all social distancing guidance.

All evidence shows that the Pfizer and Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against variant strains of the virus.

In May 2021 Public Health England concluded the vaccines are highly effective against the Delta strain identified in India in April 2021 after two doses, and are likely to prevent people becoming seriously ill and needing to be admitted to hospital.

Whilst the vaccines provide some level of protection against the Delta strain three weeks after the first dose, it is very important to make sure you get both doses of the vaccine to effectively protect yourself.

Information: Watch an NHS YouTube video explaining what’s in the COVID-19 vaccines and how they work

The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

They can cause some side effects, but not everyone gets them.

Any side effects are usually mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • a sore arm from the injection
  • feeling tired
  • a headache
  • feeling achy
  • feeling or being sick

Millions of people have had a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine and the safety of the vaccines continues to be monitored. Reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or blood clotting, are very rare.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines side effects and safety

Call 111 immediately if:

You get any of these symptoms starting from around 4 days to 4 weeks after being vaccinated:

  • a severe headache that is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse
  • a headache that feels worse when you lie down or bend over
  • a headache that’s unusual for you along with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures (fits)
  • a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain

A huge amount of money and resource has been put into making the vaccines – this is how they were developed so quickly. They have also been tested thoroughly on thousands of people all over the world. Compared to other vaccine developments, this ground-breaking medical advancement was possible for a number of reasons:

1 – This is not the first coronavirus. Scientists had already been working on possible vaccines for other coronaviruses. This gave them a head start when they started working on the Covid vaccines.

2 – The different phases of the Covid clinical trials were delivered to overlap instead of running back-to-backwhich sped up the process.

3 – The data was checked as the tests happened and without any delay, so the experts at the medicines regulator, the MHRA, could review evidence as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed – instead of having to wait for all the information at the end of a trial.

4 – Clinical trials were able to find people to test the vaccines very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer.

5- The worldwide effort meant researchers shared their coronavirus data with other scientists quickly.

6 – Funding for Covid vaccine research, ranging from the government to the private sector, was vital in making sure the Covid vaccines were developed so quickly and so safely.

7 – Clinical trials had faster results because high case rates are needed to test a vaccine’s effectiveness.

COVID-19 vaccines have to go through several stages of clinical trials before they can be approved for use.

Clinical trials are where a vaccine or medicine is tested on volunteers to make sure it works and is safe.

The approved COVID-19 vaccines have been tested on thousands of people in the UK and around the world, including:

  • people from different ethnic backgrounds
  • people from different age groups
  • people with different health conditions

All vaccines used in the UK must be approved by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The MHRA makes sure the vaccines meet strict international standards for safety, quality and effectiveness. Once a vaccine is approved, it’s closely monitored to continue to make sure it is safe and effective.

You can get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’re aged 16 or over and:

  • you’re pregnant or think you might be
  • you’re breastfeeding
  • you’re trying for a baby or might get pregnant in the future

The type of vaccine you’ll be offered depends if you’re pregnant and how old you are. The vaccines cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.

Find out more about pregnancy, breastfeeding, fertility and COVID-19 vaccination

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain egg or animal products.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine contains a tiny amount of alcohol, but this is less than in some everyday foods like bread.

The vaccines are suitable for people of all faiths.

You can find out about the ingredients in the vaccines currently available in the UK:

NHS vaccination teams are on hand to help nervous patients get their jabs, so make sure you let them know about any worries you have on arrival. Needle phobia affects at least 1 in 10 people and is nothing to be ashamed of. Luckily, simple exercises such as breathing techniques and practice can help to overcome it.

Find out more about dealing and overcoming needle phobia.

You’ll need to bring:

  • a face covering, unless you cannot wear one for a health or disability reason
  • your booking reference numbers if your appointment is at a vaccination centre

If you need a carer you can bring them with you on the day.

Your appointment should last for around 30 to 45 minutes.

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

It’s important to tell the staff giving you the vaccination if you have ever had a severe allergic 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.

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.

Find out more about what to expect after the COVID-19 vaccination on GOV.UK

We have more answers to more questions in our more detailed subject specific FAQ pages.

The NHS Vaccine Facts website answers common questions South East Londoners have had about the COVID vaccine, and what happened when local people had the jab.