Frequently asked questions about the vaccine
How effective are the vaccines?
Vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at stopping people from becoming seriously ill from Covid-19.
Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but the symptoms should be a lot less severe.
Having the vaccine prevents you becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 but you may still be able to spread it to others so it is very important to keep following any national guidance.
How does the vaccine work?
Like all vaccines, the Covid-19 vaccines teach your body to fight the virus.
The vaccines work by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection. The protein stimulates the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection.
The components of the vaccine leave the body within a few days. The vaccines will not alter your DNA or genetic material.
What are the vaccine ingredients?
A detailed review of the vaccines and their ingredients have been provided by the MHRA and can be found at the following links:
The British Islamic Medical Association have produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community.
How were vaccines developed so quickly?
The main reason that the vaccines were developed so quickly is that finding a vaccine for Covid-19 was a worldwide priority. Funding was made available very quickly and scientists across the world have worked together to develop the vaccines, which has meant they were able to complete years of work in months.
Similarly, thousands of people across the world volunteered to take part in the clinical trials, whereas it usually takes a long time to find enough volunteers for a vaccine trial.
The other factor was that all the different bodies involved in checking the safety of the vaccines worked together so this could happen as quickly as possible and sped up the administrative processes, which can often take several years. For example, usually the different phases of the clinical trials take place one after another but for the covid-19 vaccine, some of them ran at the same time to speed up the process.
Are there any groups that shouldn’t have the vaccine?
People with history of a severe allergy to the ingredients of the vaccines should not be vaccinated.
Should people who have already had COVID get vaccinated?
Yes. The MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had COVID-19 as it is for those who haven’t.
Does the vaccine include any parts from foetal or animal origin?
There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website – for:
Leaders from Muslim, Hindu and Jewish faiths have all said that the vaccines are suitable for people of their religions and people shouldn’t hesitate to get them.
Are the vaccines safe?
Yes. The covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety and effectiveness.
They have been approved by an independent body (The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), which follows international standards of safety, and have gone through all the same clinical trials and safety checks that all other licensed medicines have to complete before they can be used.
Are the vaccines safe for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities?
The trials demonstrated that the vaccines are consistently safe and effective across different ethnic groups.
For the Pfizer trial, participants included 9.6% black/African, 26.1% Hispanic/Latino and 3.4% Asian. For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine 10.1% of trail recipients were Black and 3.5% Asian. Full details are available in the Public Assessment Reports, which contain all the scientific information about the trials and information on trial participants. These can be found at:
Can the vaccines make you ill?
You can’t get Covid-19 from having the vaccine. As with flu, it is possible to have caught Covid-19 and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment but the vaccine cannot give you the virus.
Are there any side effects?
Like all vaccines, the Covid-19 vaccines can cause side effects in some people. Most of these are mild and short term, and not everyone gets them. Very common side effects include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine
- feeling tired
- general aches, or mild flu like symptoms
These tend to happen in the first couple of days after the vaccination and last a few days. You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help you feel better.
If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, call NHS 111 or your GP practice.
You should 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 and occurs 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
Can the vaccines affect your fertility?
Medical experts agree that it is not possible for the vaccines to affect fertility. Like all vaccines, the covid-19 vaccines teach your body to fight the disease. They do not have any ingredients that would affect fertility and the components leave the body within a few days.
Can I have the vaccine during Ramadan/does the vaccine invalidate fasting?
The British Islamic Medical Association have issued specific advice urging Muslims observing Ramadan not to delay getting the vaccine, drawing on analysis from Islamic scholars which says that injections for non-nutritional purposes do not invalidate the fast
Further information is available on the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) website.
Can I have the vaccine if I’m pregnant?
The Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations has updated its guidance and is now advising that pregnant women should be offered COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as people of the same age or risk group. They have said it is preferable for pregnant women to have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine where available because they’ve been more widely used during pregnancy in other countries and no safety concerns have been identified. There is no evidence to suggest that other vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women but more research is needed.
You should speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination to discuss the benefits and risks with you. You should also read the COVID-19 leaflet for childbearing, pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Can I have the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?
The Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations has recommended that the vaccines can be given to women who are breastfeeding as there are no known risks to them or their baby. This is in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation.
Is it safe to try to get pregnant after having the vaccine?
There is no need for women to delay pregnancy after having the vaccination.
Which vaccine will I get?
The UK is currently using the PfizerBioNTech, OxfordAstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.
Can people pick which vaccine they want?
No. The healthcare professional vaccinating you will have to use the vaccine that is available at the time of your appointment.
Is one vaccine better than the other?
All the approved vaccines have been shown to be safe and highly effective. No trials have been carried out to compare the vaccines: the important thing is that they will both protect you from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
How long do the vaccines take to work?
Protection starts around seven days after your first dose. To get the maximum amount of protection, people need to have their second dose. Full protection takes effect around a week or two after the second dose. The booster vaccine will further boost immunity for those who are eligble, at least 3 months after your second jab.
I have a health condition which puts me at greater risk from Covid-19, when will I get my vaccination?
If you have a health condition that puts you at increased risk from COVID-19, you should have already been contacted to book an appointment. If not, please contact your GP practice