Can I catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No, you cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine. This is because none of the COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the UK contain the live virus that causes infection, meaning the vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
Instead, the vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognise and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.
Is the NHS confident that the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines are safe?
Yes. The NHS will not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public until the independent experts have signed off that it is safe to do so. The MHRA, the official UK regulator, has said that both of these vaccines have good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and the NHS has full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.
As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once they have been authorised and is being used in the wider population.
Please find links below to the MHRA’s rationale for approving the vaccines.
How were the COVID-19 vaccines developed so quickly?
There are a number of enablers that have made this ground-breaking medical advancement possible and why it was possible to develop them relatively quickly compared to other medicines;
The different phases of the clinical trial were delivered to overlap instead of run sequentially which sped up the clinical process;
There was a rolling assessment of data packages as soon as they were available so experts at the MHRA could review as the trial was being delivered, ask questions along the way and request extra information as needed – as opposed to getting all information at the end of a trial;
Clinical trials managed to recruit people very quickly as a global effort meant thousands of people were willing to volunteer.
Were the COVID-19 vaccines tested on high risk groups?
For both vaccines trial participants included a range of those from various ages, immune-compromised and those with underlying health conditions, and both found the efficacy of the vaccine translates through all the subgroups.
Details of trial participants for both vaccines are published online and can be found linked below.
Will the COVID-19 vaccines work with new strains of the virus?
We know that the vaccines currently being given by the NHS appear to work well against the strains of COVID-19 that are dominant in the UK. That is why medical experts encourage eligible people to get their vaccine as soon as they are offered it, because it will prevent the risk of illness from the strains that pose an immediate threat.
For strains that are dominant in other countries or are yet to emerge, the current vaccines may be less effective at preventing infection, but some evidence suggests they could still be just as effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalisation and death. It may be that updated vaccines or booster jabs are developed in the future. In the meantime, the clinical advice remains that people should get the vaccines that are shown to protect against the strains that pose the greatest risk right now.
It is worth noting that viruses such as the winter flu often branch into different strains, but these small variations rarely render vaccines ineffective.
Why has the first COVID-19 vaccination dose been prioritised over giving second doses?
Given the high level of protection afforded by the first dose, models are clear that initially vaccinating a greater number of people with a single dose will prevent more deaths and hospitalisations than vaccinating a smaller number of people with two doses. This means that rapid delivery of the first dose is required to protect those most vulnerable.
This decision will allow us to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and will help save lives.
However, getting both doses remains important so we would urge people to return for it at the right time.
The full statement on prioritisation and the data that supports this decision can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prioritising-the-first-covid-19-vaccine-dose-jcvi-statement
Can I choose which COVID-19 vaccine I have?
No. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not advised a preference between the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in any specific population, stating that "both give very high protection against severe disease... and both vaccines have good safety profiles".
You will have to have two doses of the same vaccine and in certain circumstances the NHS may advise you have a certain vaccine.
Please rest assured that both vaccines have been cleared through the MHRA’s stringent and comprehensive approval process and have been found to meet their strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
How long does the vaccine take to become effective?
The immune system can take a number of days or weeks to generate an immune response before protection from the virus begins. While you will need two doses of the vaccine to get the best long-term protection from the virus, you will still have a significant level of protection at 22 days after you received the first dose.
No vaccine is 100% effective, so everyone should continue to take the recommended precautions to avoid infection.
Is the issue of anaphylaxis with the Pfizer vaccine less with the Oxford vaccine if you have had a history of this?
The Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine contains polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is from a group of known allergens commonly found in medicines and also in household goods and cosmetics.
Known allergy to PEG is extremely rare but would contraindicate receipt of this vaccine.
Patients with undiagnosed PEG allergy may have a history of unexplained anaphylaxis or of anaphylaxis to multiple classes of drugs
The Oxford vaccine does not contain PEG, and is a suitable alternative.
I’ve already had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine?
Yes, you should still get vaccinated because we do not know how long protection remains after COVID-19 infection.
People infected with COVID-19 are likely to be protected for some months, but further research is required. These individuals could still transmit the virus to others.
There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of COVID-19 infection, or with detectable COVID-19 antibodies.
You can have the vaccine 28 days after you had a positive test for COVID-19 or 28 days after your symptoms started, so you may need to wait.
Are there side effects to the COVID-19 vaccination?
Like all medicines, vaccines have the potential to cause side effects, but this needs to be weighed up against the harm of the disease they are trying to prevent.
Most side effects from the COVID-19 vaccination are mild and last less than a week, and not everyone gets them.
Common side effects include tenderness in the arm where you had your injection, feeling tired, headaches and general aches.
No patients has so far suffered from irreversible side effects – in trials or amongst the general population.
There is a system in place (known as the yellow card system; https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/) to monitor and report adverse events immediately in a process known as pharmacovigilance. In the UK, this is carried out by the MHRA.
Do the COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus?
While the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines provide protection from serious disease, there is not yet conclusive evidence on whether they prevent someone from passing the virus on to others.
This means after vaccination it is important you continue to follow the guidance to protect those around you.
How long will my COVID-19 vaccine be effective for?
We expect the vaccines to work for at least a year – if not longer. However, this will be closely monitored.
Is it safe to have the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?
The vaccines have not yet been tested in pregnancy, so until more information is available, those who are pregnant should not routinely have this vaccine. Non-clinical evidence is required before any clinical studies in pregnancy can start, and before that, it is usual to not recommend routine vaccination during pregnancy.
Evidence from non-clinical studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been received and reviewed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This evidence was also reviewed by World Health Organisation and the regulatory bodies in the USA, Canada and Europe and has raised no concerns about safety in pregnancy.
Non-clinical studies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have raised no concerns.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recognised that the potential benefits of vaccination are particularly important for some pregnant women. This includes those who are at very high risk of catching the infection or those with clinical conditions that put them at high risk of suffering serious complications from COVID‑19.
In these circumstances, you should discuss vaccination with your doctor or nurse, and you may feel that it is better to go ahead and receive the protection from the vaccine.
Find the latest advice on COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women and those who may become pregnant here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-women-o…
Is it safe to have the COVID-19 vaccine if I am breastfeeding?
There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in breastfeeding or on the breastfed infant. Despite this, COVID-19 vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant, and the benefits of breast-feeding are well known. Because of this, the JCVI has recommended that the vaccine can be received whilst breastfeeding. This is in line with recommendations in the USA and from the World Health Organisation.
Find the latest advice on COVID-19 vaccinations for breastfeeding women here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-women-o…
Do the COVID-19 vaccines impact women’s fertility?
The Royal College of Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives have confirmed there is no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause an impact on women’s fertility.
The Royal College of Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives issued a statement on 19 January 2021, saying:
“There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility. Claims of any effect of Covid-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data.”
More information about the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility can be found at the Royal College of Gynaecologists' website here: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/RCOG-and-RCM-respond-to-misinformation-…
Why is vaccination not recommended for children?
Almost all children with COVID-19 have no symptoms or mild disease and the vaccines have not yet been tested in younger children. The advice is that only children at very high risk of catching the virus and serious illness – such as older children with severe neuro-disabilities in residential care – should be offered vaccination.
Can the COVID-19 vaccines alter my genetic material?
There is no evidence to suggest that individual genetic material will undergo alteration after receiving the vaccine.
The Oxford vaccine works the same as the flu jabs many of us have each year.
The Pfizer vaccine uses mRNA technology which teaches our cells to make a protein that triggers a protective immune response. The mRNA is broken down soon after it enters the body and never enters the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is kept.
Am I automatically protected from COVID-19 after my first vaccination dose?
The first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus from 22 days after inoculation. However, you need to have the two doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection. This means you should continue following the hands, face, space advice after your vaccination.
Are there meat derivatives or porcine products in the Pfizer or Oxford Vaccines?
No, there are no meat derivatives or porcine products, including gelatine, in the Pfizer or Oxford vaccines. A detailed review of the vaccines and their ingredients have been provided which you can find linked below by vaccine.
What COVID-19 vaccines has the Government secured access to?
The Government’s vaccine taskforce has secured early access to 7 of the most promising vaccine candidates including:
- BioNTech/Pfizer for 40 million doses
- Oxford/AstraZeneca for 100 million doses
- Moderna for 7 million doses
- Novavax for 60 million doses
- Janssen for 30 million doses
- Valneva for 100 million doses
- GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60 million doses
All of these vaccines will be subject to the same intense scrutiny process I laid out above, and only administered if our best scientists are confident they are both safe and effective.