COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2. It is very infectious and can lead to severe respiratory disease.
Many people who are infected may not have any symptoms or only have mild symptoms. These commonly start with cough, fever, headache and loss of taste or smell.
A small number of people then go on to have severe disease which may require hospitalisation or admission to intensive care. There is no cure for COVID-19 although some newly tested treatments do help to reduce the risk of complications.
In the UK, there are 2 types of COVID-19 vaccine to be used once they are approved. They both require 2 doses to provide the best protection.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group, has recommended that the NHS offers these vaccines first to those at highest risk of catching the infection and of suffering serious complications if they catch the infection.
This includes older adults, frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, and those with certain clinical conditions.
The vaccines do not contain living organisms, and so are safe for people with disorders of the immune system. These people may not respond so well to the vaccine. A very small number of people who are at risk of COVID-19 cannot have the vaccine – this includes people who have severe allergies such as those who have previously suffered Anaphylactic Shock, or Angio-oedema which compromise your breathing and can lead to severe collapse.
If you have a history of rashes or prickly heat as a result of hay fever, contact sensitivity or certain medicines, like aspirin or penicillin this does not prevent you from attending for vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few weeks for your body to build up protection from the vaccine.
The vaccine has been shown to be effective and no safety concerns were seen in studies of more than 20,000 people.
Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.
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. Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the second dose will give you the best protection against the virus.
Very common side effects include:
Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection. You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help you feel better.
Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, call NHS 111.
If you do seek advice from a doctor or nurse, make sure you tell them about your vaccination.
You can also report suspected side effects to vaccines and medicines online through the Yellow Card scheme.
The flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both, but normally separated by at least a week.
You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine.
If you are unwell, it is better to wait until you have recovered to have your vaccine, but you should try to have it as soon as possible. You should not attend a vaccine appointment if you are self-isolating, waiting for a COVID-19 test or unsure if you are fit and well.
The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and 2 doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. We do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus. So, it is important to follow the guidance in your local area to protect those around you.
To protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues you still need to: