Covid 19 vaccine FAQs

This page brings together answers to the questions we are getting about the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination programme. Simply click on the categories below.

If you require the frequently asked questions in a different format, click on the Browsealoud icon at the top of the webpage. Browsealoud can read aloud and translate text in multiple languages, as well as other features to improve accessibility.

Book your vaccination today.

Who can get a Covid-19 vaccine

Everyone aged 5 (on or before 31 August 2022) and over can get a 1st and 2nd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. 

People aged 16 and over, and some children aged 12 to 15, can also get a booster dose.

People aged 5 and over who had a severely weakened immune system when they had their 1st or 2nd dose will be offered an additional primary dose (3rd dose) before any booster doses. 

Some people, including those aged 50 years or over, those at higher risk or who are pregnant, and frontline health and social care workers, will be offered a seasonal booster (autumn booster). 

NHS vaccine eligibility. 

How to book

We are vaccinating those aged 5 and over. You do not need to wait to be contacted by the NHS to book your vaccination at a large vaccination centre or a pharmacy using the national booking system

Click here to book your Covid-19 vaccination appointment on the national booking system 

If you live in Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, City and Hackney, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge or Havering and are over the age of 18, you can book yourself in (either directly or using the national booking system), and sometimes walk-in, for your Covid-19 vaccination at over 50 vaccination centres in north east London. 

It is really important you have both doses of the vaccine to give you maximum protection from Covid-19. You should book your second jab eight to ten weeks after your first dose.

Which vaccine will I get?

You cannot usually choose which vaccine you have. If you book online, you'll only be offered appointments for vaccines that are suitable for you. Most people can have any of the Covid-19 vaccines but if you're pregnant or under 40 you'll usually be offered appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines 

You should have the same vaccine for both your 1st and 2nd doses, unless you had serious side effects (such as a serious allergic reaction) after your 1st dose. 

Autumn booster

For 2022 autumn boosters, you will be given a Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna bivalent vaccine. These are vaccines that have been updated to provide additional protection against the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus. 

You can read the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on bivalent vaccines

What info will I need to give to get a vaccine?

You can walk in to some vaccination clinics and some you need to book. No proof of address or immigration status is required. If you book on the national booking service you will be asked for your name and date of birth. If you can’t book on the national booking service, information on where and how to get vaccinated at one of the many sites is here, many of which you can just walk into (including for over 16s):

To learn more about what happens at your Covid-19 vaccination appointment and what information is needed visit the NHS website.

What are the operating hours of the national telephone booking system?

The national telephone booking service (dial 119) for vaccination centres is open 16 hours a day (from 7am until 11pm), seven days a week. People are also able to book online 24/7.  

For information on 119 visit the NHS website. 

What can I expect after my Covid vaccination?

This PHE leaflet contains information for people who just had their COVID-19 vaccination. 

What if people can’t get to the vaccination centre?

People who are housebound will be contacted by their GP services about alternative ways to get vaccinated. There are over 50 local vaccination sites across north east London so people can book one convenient for them.  

Can people book without their NHS number or if they aren’t registered with a GP?

You do not need to be registered with a GP or have an NHS number to get vaccinated

It does however help to be registered with a GP to help the NHS check for any reasons that someone might not be able to have a vaccine, and ensure there is a record that both doses of the vaccine have been had. Details of how to register with a GP are available here.    

Find a walk-in Covid-19 vaccination site near you

How do the vaccines work?  

Most vaccines work by triggering an immune response to the virus, even though there is no live virus present. As there is no whole or live virus involved, the vaccine cannot cause disease.  

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes, it’s safe, and it works. Over 151 million vaccines have been given in the UK and billions have been given worldwide. It is safe and effective, and reduces the spread of the virus.

The NHS does not offer any vaccinations until it is safe to do so. The UK medicines regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved these vaccines and there have been rigorous checks at every stage of their development and manufacturing process.   

To learn more about how Covid-19 vaccines were developed, tested, approved and safety visit the NHS Covid-19 safety page. 

Can the vaccine alter your genetic material?

There is no evidence to suggest that individual genetic material will undergo an alteration after receiving the vaccine. The vaccine will not alter human DNA.  

What are the side effects?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. 

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
  • Headache
  • General aches, or mild flu like symptoms
  • As with all vaccines, appropriate treatment and care will be available in case of a rare anaphylactic event following administration. 

The mild flu-like symptoms, including headache, chills and fever described above remain the most common side effects of any Covid-19 vaccine. These generally appear within a few hours and resolve within a day or two. 

Rare side effects that require medical review include:

  • new onset of severe headache, which is getting worse and does not respond to simple painkillers
  • an unusual headache which seems worse when lying down or bending over, or may be accompanied by blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, difficulty with speech, weakness, drowsiness or seizures
  • new unexplained pinprick bruising or bleeding
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain 

If you experience any of the above symptoms more than four days and within 28 days of coronavirus vaccination please seek urgent medical advice. 

To learn more about side effects and safety, visit the NHS Covid-19 side effects page

Are there any serious side effects of the Moderna vaccine?

Worldwide, there have been recent, very rare cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis reported after Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines. 

These cases have been seen mostly in younger men within several days after vaccination. Most of these people recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments. 

You should seek medical advice urgently if, after vaccination, you experience:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart 

If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist. 

To learn more about side effects and safety, visit the NHS Covid-19 side effects page 

What are the long term side effects of the vaccine?

So far, billions of people have been given a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.  

To learn more about side effects and safety, visit the NHS Covid-19 side effects page

I am wanting to become pregnant. Should I have the vaccine?

There is no link between the Covid-19 vaccine and infertility. Not only is there no evidence that vaccines cause fertility problems in men or women, medical experts say there is no realistic way they could. Rumours circulating on social media are false. 

For more information visit the NHS page on Pregnancy, breastfeeding, fertility and coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination

Can people who have had recurrent miscarriages have the vaccine?

Yes. There is no reason to postpone having your Covid-19 vaccine as it does not affect your likelihood of having a miscarriage. 

 Does it affect fertility?

There is nothing in the vaccine that can affect the fertility of women or men. 

For more information visit the NHS page on Pregnancy, breastfeeding, fertility and coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination

Does the vaccine affect periods/menstruation?

We’re aware of reports from some women who have seen a change to their period cycle or symptoms after having their vaccination.

This statement from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists ( acknowledges there have been anecdotal accounts from people who say they've experienced changes to their menstrual cycle after having the COVID-19 vaccine and supports more data collection to understand why this might be the case.

Dr Pat O’Brien, Vice President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "It’s important to remember these side effects are mild and should not deter women from having the vaccine when they are called. Many women will experience a temporary change in their periods from time to time during their lives.”

If you have any concerns about your period you should contact your GP. There nothing in the vaccine that can affect the fertility of women and there is no need to avoid pregnancy after Covid-19 vaccination. The Covid-19 vaccine also does not affect your likelihood of having a miscarriage. 

Can I have the vaccine whilst undergoing IVF?

Yes you can. You may wish to consider the timing of having a Covid-19 vaccine during your fertility treatment, taking into account that some people may get mild side effects such as feeling tired or feeling a bit achy or sick in the few days after vaccination that they do not want to have during treatment. Your medical team will be able to advise you about the best time for your situation.

For more information visit the NHS page on Pregnancy, breastfeeding, fertility and coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination

What is in the vaccines? Are they vegan/vegetarian friendly? Do they include any parts from foetal or animal origin?

The vaccines do not contain any meat derivatives or porcine products or material of foetal or animal origin. A detailed review of the vaccines and their ingredients have been provided by the MHRA and can be found at the following links: 

Does the Covid-19 vaccine contain alcohol?

The AstraZeneca vaccine does contain alcohol (ethanol) but at 0.002mg per dose this is much less than found in a slice of bread or a banana for example. The Pfizer vaccine does not contain any alcohol. 

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

Will the vaccination cards be able to be used as proof of vaccination when travelling abroad, or to prove to an employer that you’ve been vaccinated?

Not everyone will necessarily get a vaccination card which only acts as a reminder to have your second dose and records the vaccine batch number. However, you can use the NHS App (not NHS track and trace) to demonstrate your vaccinations status. The Covid-19 vaccination status is available to people who live in England and are registered with a GP. This allows you to show others that you’ve had a full course of the Covid-19 vaccine when travelling abroad to some countries or territories. For full details on how to demonstrate your status and how to access this, please visit the website.

How do I get a NHS Covid Pass?

You can access your Covid Pass in the NHS App if you are registered with a GP (this is not the same as the NHS Covid-19 App). If you are not registered with a GP you can access your Covid Pass through the NHS website or you can request a letter for travel purposes by calling 119. The Covid Pass is only available to individuals who are over 18 (or over 16 for travel purposes) and have been fully vaccinated by the NHS in England. 

Information on how to get the digital or paper covid pass is here.

What do I do if I had a first dose of the vaccine abroad? 

If a person received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine overseas that is also available in the UK, they should receive the same vaccine for their second dose. If the vaccine they received for their first dose is not available in the UK, a similar alternative can be offered.  The full guidance is available here.  

How do I register my overseas Covid-19 vaccination?

You should let the NHS know if you have had any of the following vaccinations outside of England, in order to update your vaccination records and receive a Covid Pass.

You can do this by booking an appointment via the NHS website. At the appointment you will be asked to show evidence of the vaccines that you have received outside of England.

How many doses are being offered to children aged 5 to 15

2 doses are being offered to all children aged 12 to 15, and some aged 5 to 11, to give them the best protection against Covid-19.

Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 15 

How does the consent process work?

All parents or those with parental responsibility are asked for consent and will usually make this decision jointly with their children. The ‘guide for children and young people’ is addressed to the child (as the recipient of the vaccine) and encourages them to discuss the decision about the vaccine with their parents.

 Covid-19 vaccine side effects and safety for children

The independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is very effective for children aged 5 to 15. 

Find out about the side effects of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

My child already had Covid-19, should I bother taking them to get the vaccine?

Yes. We know that these vaccines stimulate a stronger and possibly longer lasting immune response than a natural infection from the virus itself. We also don’t know how long natural immunity lasts, or if that immunity is protective against the new variants of the virus. Even if your child has already had Covid-19 it is still vitally important to get them vaccinated. 

Why are children being told to wait 12 weeks after having Covid to get vaccinated?

Emerging evidence from the UK and other countries, suggests that leaving a longer interval between infection and vaccination may further reduce the already small risk of myocarditis in younger age groups. The change to the wait period between Covid infection and vaccination for young people has been made based on the utmost precaution. More detailed information is available on the website.

Updated: 12/10/2022