The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. They give you the best protection against COVID-19.
Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines are available for:
- everyone aged 16 or over
- some children aged 12 to 15 who have a higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 or who live with someone at high risk of catching it
How to get your COVID-19 vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccines currently available are given in 2 doses. You usually have the 2nd dose 8 to 12 weeks after the 1st dose.
If you’re aged 18 or over (or will turn 18 within 3 months) you can:
- book your COVID-19 vaccination appointments online for an appointment at a vaccination centre or pharmacy
- find a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site to get vaccinated without needing an appointment
- wait to be contacted by your GP surgery and book your appointments with them
If you cannot book appointments 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.
Children and young people aged 12 to 17
People aged 16 and 17, and children aged 12 to 15 who are eligible, will be contacted by a local NHS service such as a GP surgery to book their vaccination appointments.
Some walk-in COVID-19 vaccination sites are offering the vaccine to people aged 16 and 17. You can check if a site is available near you.
Booking your 2nd dose
You’ll usually need to book a 2nd dose for 8 to 12 weeks after your 1st dose.
- If you book online, you’ll be asked to book appointments for both doses. You can manage your COVID-19 vaccination appointments to view your appointments and rebook if you need to.
- If you’re 18 or over and have your 1st dose at a walk-in vaccination site, you can book your 2nd COVID-19 vaccination appointment online. You’ll need to wait 24 hours after your 1st dose before you can book.
- If you have your 1st dose through your GP surgery, you’ll be contacted when it’s time to book your 2nd dose.
Types of COVID-19 vaccine
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)
Which vaccine will I get?
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.
- if you’re pregnant or under 40 you’ll usually be offered appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines
- if you’re under 18, you’ll only be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
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.
How well do the COVID-19 vaccines work?
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.
There is a chance you might still get or spread COVID-19 even if you have a vaccine, so it’s important to follow advice about how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19.
Side effects and safety
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
More serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or blood clotting, are very rare.
Pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility
You can get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’re aged 16 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 vaccines you’ll be offered depends if you’re pregnant and how old you are. The vaccines cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccine ingredients
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:
Vaccination in other parts of the UK
Page last reviewed: 12 August 2021
Next review due: 26 August 2021