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.

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.

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

  • you’re aged 18 or 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

You do not need to wait to be contacted to book an appointment.

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.

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.

There are 2 main ways to get a COVID-19 vaccine:

  • book online now for appointments at a vaccination centre or a pharmacy
  • wait to be contacted by your GP surgery and book your appointments with them

The currently available vaccines are given in 2 doses. You usually have the 2nd dose 8 to 12 weeks after the 1st dose.

If you 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 cannot book online, 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.

We also 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.

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.

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.

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. Two doses gives you the maximum protection against known variants and reduces the risk of hospitalisation.

Previously there was a 12 week gap between doses.

This change is in response to the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and has been made to ensure people have the strongest possible protection against the virus as early as possible.

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.

If you already have appointments booked, you can:

  • view your appointments
  • cancel your appointments
  • book appointments again

We will ask you some questions first, so we can find your bookings.


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.

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 only be offered appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

You should have the same vaccine for both doses, 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.

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 aged between 18 and 84
  • 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 18 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:

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.